By Brooke Shafer

WASHINGTON (CBSmiami/AP) — Coronavirus testing sites all across south Florida continue to experience record turnout, but now there is new weapon in the fight against COVID.

“Merry Christmas, this is absolutely a game-changer,” said Dr. Geeta Nayyar, an Associate Professor at the University of Miami. Dr. G was all smiles talking about the latest weapon in the fight against the coronavirus.

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“Just like Tamiflu, for the flu, this gives us, the option that even if you get infected, this could prevent you from ending up in the hospital or from having severe infection,’ said Dr. G.

Pfizer’s new antiviral pill called Paxlovid is the first pill to treat COVID-19. The FDA granted its emergency authorization this week.  And it will be made available to high-risk adults and children who have contracting the virus.

“It stops a variety of enzymes that the virus needs to replicate. So, the whole fanfare about this medication is that we have options, we have treatment options, this means if you get infected with Covid you can very quickly take one of these medications and will be able to able to have less severe infection.

Studies show the covid pill is about 90 % effective in reducing symptoms and preventing hospitalization and Miami-Dade Mayor Daniela Levine-Cava says it will also help ease the burden on the hospital system.

“The antiviral pill can play a key role in preventing the hospitals from getting overwhelmed, which we all know is a key factor in keeping our community safe,” added Levine-Cava.

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Another key benefit is those with a prescription will be able to self-treat at home, similar to a z-pack. And Levine-Cava says they’re already taking steps to get the pill in South Florida

“Just yesterday, we learned that the pill may be approved as soon as this week, so we are doing everything possible to ensure we’re doing everything possible to make it available right here at our testing sites in Miami Dade, added Levine-Cava.

The agency issued emergency use authorization to Pfizer’s anti-viral pills. The oral medication can be taken at home for people who test positive who are at high risk of severe disease.

The FDA announcement comes as the U.S. braces for a wave of new infections from the omicron variant that is threatening already-strained hospitals.

Pfizer’s prescription pill is the first U.S. medication that doesn’t require an injection or an IV, a long-awaited milestone in the battle against the virus. But initial supplies will be extremely limited with just enough to treat tens of thousands of people. The drug was authorized for high-risk patients who are most likely to get severe illness.

The announcement comes a day after the Biden administration detailed a wide range of new steps to slow the spread, including more testing.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)