Pfizer's COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid
Pfizer's COVID-19 pill, PaxlovidPfizer/Handout via REUTERS

US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that the federal government is doubling the order for Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral pill, Paxlovid, which has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and severe illness significantly.

"Production is in full swing. The United States has more pills than any other country in the world and our supply is going to ramp up over the coming months, as more of these pills are manufactured," Biden said during remarks at the White House, according to CNN.

"Today I'm directing my team to work with Pfizer to double our order from 10 million to 20 million treatment courses to be delivered in the months ahead," he added.

Biden had previously announced the US would buy 10 million courses of Pfizer's pill in a $5.3 billion deal which was contingent on the treatment's approval by the FDA.

The President also cautioned during his remarks that "we may need even more. That's the estimate we need right now."

The first batch of the pills, he said, were shipped out on Christmas Eve "and more will be shipped this week."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency authorization to Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pill in late December.

The FDA cleared the pill for patients 12 and up with mild to moderate COVID who are most likely to end up hospitalized or not survive. The agency said it should be prescribed as soon as possible after diagnosis and within five days of symptom onset.

Pfizer’s pill is the first oral antiviral drug authorized by the FDA that is specifically designed to fight COVID-19.

Biden’s announcement on Tuesday comes as the US reached more than 100,000 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 for the first time in four months.

The Omicron variant caused 95.4% of new COVID-19 cases in the US last week -- significantly higher than the previous week, according to estimates posted Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.