NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Food and Drug Administration is set to authorize two different COVID-19 treatment pills as early as Wednesday.

The pills have been called potential game changers in the pandemic.

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But as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday, the pills will not replace vaccines as the best weapons against the virus.

One drug comes from Pfizer and the other comes from Merck. Both have been recommended for FDA approval by independent advisory committees.

COVID VACCINE

Pfizer’s pill, Paxlovid, and Merck’s, Molnupiravir, are seen as promising new oral treatments that can be taken at home upon onset of symptoms to help prevent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

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Merck’s drug, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by around 30% in a clinical trial of high-risk individuals early in the course of the illness. However, the FDA committee expressed some safety concerns over Molnupiravir, especially for pregnant women. Britain has already approved the Merck drug for use in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 and for those who have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.

Meanwhile, Pfizer’s Paxlovid showed near 90% efficacy in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

The United States has a contract to buy as many as 5 million courses of Merck’s drug, and 10 million courses of Pfizer’s treatment, but most of those doses will likely not be available until early next year.

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And unlike vaccines, these drugs do not prevent COVID. They may prevent serious illness and death after you’ve contracted the coronavirus. Plus, you have to start the drugs within five days of symptoms starting, a period when many people are still wondering if their symptoms are a cold, the flu, allergies or some other ailment. In other words, vaccines are still the first line of defense against COVID.

Dr. Max Gomez