How likely is ‘COVID-19 rebound’ after Paxlovid treatment?

UVA Health doctors weighed in on the matter

(AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File) (Alastair Grant, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

As many try their best to steer clear of COVID-19, there’s yet another issue rearing its ugly head: COVID Rebound.

According to experts, COVID rebound is an instance where a person tests positive for COVID-19 or experiences COVID-19 symptoms again, just mere days after testing negative, NBC 12 reports.

Back in May, the CDC warned of COVID rebounds being reported by some patients 2 to 8 days after initial recovery.

President Joe Biden experienced this last weekend after testing positive for COVID-19 again, nearly three days after he was given the green light to end isolation. Officials described it as a “rare case of rebound” after being treated with Paxlovid.

“It would certainly suggest that the virus is now replicating again,” Dr. Costi Sifri with UVA Health said. “The frequency that occurs and why it occurs are the paramount questions right now that we’re all investigating and certainly what the CDC and you know, in Pfizer are taking a look at right now.”

Experts say COVID rebounds are most often seen in people who have completed Paxlovid treatment, an antiviral treatment recommended by Pfizer for those who are at a higher health risk.

“Part of the issue here is that the concept of rebound has not been kind of clearly defined. And so it’s really difficult to study,” said Dr. Patrick Jackson, who studies infectious diseases at UVA Health.

He explained that rebounds are a rarity, despite what it may seem.

“In their trials of Paxlovid, that rebound occurred in about 2% of patients, I think most people who are actually seeing COVID-19, patients in the outpatient setting think that that number is substantially higher,” he said.

The FDA says “it is unclear at this point that this is related to drug treatment” given that the rate was about the same for those taking the drug or dummy pills.

He noted that while COVID-19 can last for one to two weeks, a prescription for Paxlovid lasts for five days. He says in order to make the drug more effective, we may need to extend the length of the treatment.

Ultimately, though, Jackson doesn’t believe Paxlovid is exacerbating COVID symptoms.

“There’s no evidence or reason to believe that because you got packs of it, you’re going to have longer symptoms,” he said.

About the Author:

Jazmine Otey joined the 10 News team in February 2021.