CDC Warns of “Paxlovid Rebound” Cases

Pfizer’s Paxlovid is a highly effective treatment for COVID-19, but the lifesaving drug has also raised concerns around rebound infection.

On May 24, the CDC issued a health advisory in response to cases of “Paxlovid rebound.” The agency recommends Paxlovid, an FDA-authorized COVID-19 treatment pill developed by Pfizer, for high-risk individuals experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms.

  • Symptoms during rebound infection seem to be mild or nonexistent, but infected individuals are still at risk of spreading the virus to others.
  • It’s unclear why rebound cases are happening. One hypothesis is that Paxlovid may not entirely eliminate the infection within the five-day treatment period. The COVID-19 virus that remains in the body after treatment ends could start replicating and cause people to test positive again.
  • Pfizer says its studies show that about 2 percent of people who take Paxlovid experience COVID-19 rebound, but some health care professionals believe the rate is much higher.

Paxlovid remains a highly effective treatment for COVID-19 that prevents hospitalization and death. 

  • The CDC continues to recommend Paxlovid for people at high risk of developing severe illness.
  • To be prescribed Paxlovid, you must have a positive test, be considered high-risk, and start the regimen within five days of developing symptoms.
  • Use this locator to find a “test-to-treat” site where you can get tested and receive treatment in one sitting.
  • If you have health insurance and a primary care provider, you can make an appointment to get tested or share your positive test result and then obtain a prescription.
  • Telehealth options through platforms like PlushCare and eMed offer online visits to assess COVID-19 tests and symptoms and prescribe medications.

People who experience “Paxlovid rebound” should re-isolate for at least five days. 

  • If you experience a return of COVID-19 symptoms after taking Paxlovid, take a test and wear a mask. If the test comes back positive, follow the CDC’s isolation guidance.
  • Although the CDC recommends isolating for five days, many people continue to be infectious after this period. The safest option is to isolate until you receive a negative rapid test or wear a mask if you have to leave isolation before then.
  • The CDC does not recommend retaking Paxlovid if you experience COVID-19 rebound.

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