Prescription COVID-19 medications are widely available and effective for treating COVID-19. If you feel sick, act fast to test for COVID-19 and seek treatment options.
On this page:
- How to find COVID-19 medications
- What to know about COVID-19 medications
- COVID-19 treatment access tools
- California Department of Public Health call center
How to find COVID-19 medications
As soon as you feel sick, test for COVID-19. If you test positive, use the options below to ask for a prescription for COVID-19 medication. COVID-19 medications are recommended for most adults and some teens.
Act quickly. Most COVID-19 medications must be started within the first 5 days of symptoms. The medications are currently available for free, regardless of insurance or citizenship status.
Options for getting a prescription include:
- Contact your doctor, urgent care center, or insurance provider for an appointment. Video or phone appointments can work and are typically enough to determine if you qualify for medication.
- Call the California Department of Public Health Call Center at 833-422-4255.
- Call your pharmacy to ask if they can evaluate patients for COVID-19 medication.
If you are not able to get a prescription from your doctor, but think you should be eligible for treatment, you may still be able to get a prescription through the options below. You can also show your doctor CDPH’s recommendations on treatment.
If you don’t have insurance or the options above don’t work:
- Click here or call 833-686-5051 to make a free phone or video appointment through California’s COVID-19 telehealth service. Over 200 languages are available through a translation service. –OR–
- Visit testtotreat.org to sign up for the National Home Test to Treat Program, which also offers free COVID-19 telehealth care. Free home delivery of medications is available, but act fast as COVID-19 medications must be taken within the first 5 days of symptoms. This program is available only in English and Spanish.
What to know about COVID-19 medications
What are COVID-19 medications?
COVID-19 medications are safe and effective at stopping COVID-19 illness from getting serious. By stopping the virus from multiplying, they can lower the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 by half or more. COVID-19 medications may also lower the risk of long COVID symptoms and may help you test negative sooner. Early evidence suggests that the COVID-19 medication Paxlovid may lower the risk of developing long COVID symptoms. These symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years after a COVID-19 infection.
Most COVID-19 medications are pills that you can take at home. The medications are currently available for free, regardless of insurance or citizenship status.
When should COVID-19 medications be taken?
The medications work best when started as soon as possible after you start to feel sick. Most of the medications must be started within the first 5 days of symptoms.
If you feel sick, take a COVID-19 test as soon as possible. At-home test results are okay.
- U.S. households can order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. Order free tests.
- You can also sign up for the National Home Test to Treat Program, which offers free COVID-19 at-home tests and telehealth care. Learn more.
- Click here for more information on how to get tested.
If you test positive for COVID-19, ask about COVID-19 medication right away. Do not wait for symptoms to get worse. Stay home and isolate to prevent spreading the disease to others. Even if you are vaccinated or have had COVID-19 before, you should isolate for at least 5 full days. Learn about isolation guidelines.
If your test is negative but you continue to have symptoms, test again 24-48 hours later. Low amounts of virus early in infection can be missed, and you can test positive a few days later.
If you have severe COVID-19 symptoms including trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, or trouble staying awake, go to the emergency room or call 911 right away.
Who should take COVID-19 medication?
COVID-19 medications are recommended for most adults and some teens. Everyone 12 years and older who has symptoms and tests positive for COVID-19 should seek evaluation for COVID-19 medication. A doctor will help decide which medication, if any, is right for you.
You may be able to get COVID-19 medications if:
- You are 50 years old or older –OR–
- You are unvaccinated or not up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations –OR–
- You have a health condition or other factors that increase risk. These include obesity, asthma, diabetes, lack of physical activity, smoking, mental health conditions such as depression, being of a racial/ethnic minority, and more. Learn more about factors that increase the risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Click here for more information on mental health and mood conditions.
Can COVID-19 medications also help people who are vaccinated against COVID-19?
Yes, COVID-19 medications can lower your risk of serious COVID-19 illness whether you are vaccinated against COVID-19 or not. Getting vaccinated reduces your chances of getting very sick. However, studies have shown that vaccinated people may still benefit from COVID-19 medication. Those who are at risk for serious illness, including those ages 65 and older, may especially benefit from medication.
What is the difference between COVID-19 vaccines and medications?
- COVID-19 vaccines are taken before getting COVID-19 to increase immunity against new variants.
- COVID-19 medications are taken after you get COVID-19 to stop the illness from getting serious. They may help you test negative sooner. Early evidence suggests that they may also lower the risk of long COVID.
- Both COVID vaccines and medications prevent COVID-19 illness from getting serious.
What is COVID-19 rebound?
COVID-19 rebound is a return of symptoms and a new positive test a few days after symptoms improve or you test negative. Most people do not experience rebound from COVID-19 medications. COVID-19 rebound can occur with COVID-19 whether you take medications or not. Regardless of whether rebound occurs, COVID-19 medications can prevent serious illness and may lower the risk of long COVID.
Should I take COVID-19 medications if I’m pregnant?
COVID-19 Treatments Access Tools
Use the COVID-19 Treatment Access Tool for help with finding COVID-19 medications.
Tribal COVID-19 Treatments Access Tool
California tribal members can also use the Tribal COVID-19 Treatments Access Tool to find nearby Indian Health Care providers who may be able to prescribe COVID-19 medication.
California Department of Public Health call center
For more information and help with finding COVID-19 medications, call the California Department of Public Health Call Center at 833-422-4255.
The statewide call center is open 5 days a week:
- Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Time