By Jennifer Mayerle

VADNAIS HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) — A Twin Cities man credits a newly-available antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 with keeping him out of the hospital.

Jeff Carlson, 61, is high risk for severe illness with COVID-19, and met the requirements to get the treatment due to his Type 1 diabetes. He did his best to avoid being infected, and despite being vaccinated and boosted, he tested positive a week ago.

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“I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, going to be able to pull out of it, situation of having COVID. That’s how bad it was starting to get,” Carlson said. “COVID had hit me like being run over by a truck. It was, in a very short period of time, I became significantly ill.”

He says he soon couldn’t get off the couch. As time went on he experienced trouble breathing, and an at-home pulse oximeter reading showed his oxygen dropping to dangerous levels. He also had a persistent temperature.

“By that time I was told by my medical team that I needed to go to the ER,” he said.

(credit: Jeff Carlson)

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Knowing how crowded hospitals are, he was determined to ride it out at his Vadnais Heights home. That’s when his doctors at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center weighed giving him a new antiviral pill treatment.

“After I was done with the second dose, everything started to improve,” Carlson said.

He says it was a relief. There are two pills from Merck and Pfizer with varying effectiveness to take after testing positive for COVID-19, and within five days of symptoms, before going to the hospital. It’s designed for the most at-risk of being hospitalized or dying.

“It is life changing,” Carlson said. “Taking these drugs and coming out from underneath the grip of COVID to getting your life back.”

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Right now supplies are limited. Click here to view who M Health Fairview says is eligible. The Minnesota Department of Health also has a patient risk calculator.

Jennifer Mayerle