NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The newly authorized drug aimed at fighting COVID-19 is expected to hit local hospitals soon.

According to the FDA, Pfizer’s Paxlovid is an at-home pill that will treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients who are 12 and older with underlying medical conditions. 

Dr. Mark Cline, the physician-in-chief and chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, believes Paxlovid will help many pediatric patients at his hospital. 

“I think this is an exciting advance,” said Dr. Cline. “For the first time, we have an opportunity to use an orally administered agent to prevent severe disease and even death from COVID.”

Kline says the antiviral pill is not a substitute for vaccination and doesn’t believe the pediatric population is where it should be when it comes to being vaccinated.

“Just over 50% of adolescents, 12 to 17 years of age, have been vaccinated against COVID, nationally, and the number is much smaller for children five to 11 years of age,” explained Kline.

The best defense against COVID-19, according to Kline, is vaccination.

“A lot of kids and a lot of adolescents remain unprotected, and for the older children, those 12 years of age and up, it means that, now, we have a tool to use that can prevent those with underlying conditions from experiencing severe disease,” said Kline.

The physician says he’s waiting on recommendations from the CDC on how the pill should be used but expects Paxlovid could be available as early as this week in his hospital.

“My expectation is that once the CDC gives its blessing, that the drug could ship within a matter of a day or two,” said Kline. “That is sort of been how things have played out with the vaccines recently.”

An antiviral pill from Merck is also expected to win authorization, but health experts believe Pfizer’s drug will be the preferred option because of its mild side effects and effectiveness.