NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Food and Drug Administration authorized the second of two COVID-19 treatment pills Thursday.

The FDA granted emergency use authorization for Merck’s antiviral pill in situations when no alternatives are available.

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“Molnupiravir is limited to situations where other FDA-authorized treatments for COVID-19 are inaccessible or are not clinically appropriate and will be a useful treatment option for some patients with COVID-19 at high risk of hospitalization or death,” said the FDA’s Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni.”

The pills are supposed to be started within five days of the first symptoms.

COVID VACCINE

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.

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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.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

On Wednesday afternoon, the FDA also authorized a pill from Pfizer, called Paxlovid. It can be taken at home to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Tuesday, the pills will not replace vaccines as the best weapons against the virus. They may prevent serious illness and death after you’ve contracted the coronavirus.

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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.