By Nathaniel Weixel
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases doctor, said he is experiencing a rebound of COVID-19 symptoms after taking Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid.
Fauci, 81, contracted COVID-19 earlier this month, and while his symptoms were initially “minimal,” he was prescribed a five-day course of Paxlovid when they worsened because of his age.
Paxlovid is the leading treatment for COVID-19, and is used to prevent the risk for severe disease in high-risk people who test positive, including the unvaccinated and the elderly. The drug was made available under an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in December 2021.
Speaking during a Foreign Policy global health summit on Tuesday, Fauci said he tested negative for three days in a row after he finished taking Paxlovid.
But then on the fourth day, Fauci said he tested positive again, a phenomenon that’s referred to as a “Paxlovid rebound.”
Scores of patients have reported a similar experience, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month warned health providers to be on the lookout for a “rebound” in Paxlovid patients between two and eight days after an initial recovery.
However, a rebound doesn’t mean a person is re-infected. Officials and experts have said they think it’s part of the “natural history” of the virus, and can occur regardless of a person’s vaccination status.
Fauci said that he felt “really poorly,” and his symptoms felt much worse in the day or two following the rebound, and he started a second course of Paxlovid.
According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence that additional Paxlovid treatment is needed when there’s a suspected rebound.
The Food and Drug Administration similarly stated that “there is no evidence of benefit at this time for a longer course of treatment … or repeating a treatment course of Paxlovid in patients with recurrent COVID-19 symptoms following completion of a treatment course.”
Both the recurrence of illness and positive test results improved or resolved within about three days without additional anti-COVID-19 treatment.
Fauci has been the face of the government’s response to COVID-19 for more than two years and has previously avoided testing positive for the virus. But his positive test was the latest in a long string of high-profile cases among lawmakers and government officials in Washington, D.C.
The White House has maintained that tools like vaccines, boosters and Paxlovid mean the country is in a new era of the virus where cases have been defanged to some degree.