The FDA Is Expected to Authorize COVID-19 Antiviral Pills. 3 in 4 Adults Say They’d Take Them if They Got Sick

HHS Secretary Becerra calls antiviral treatments a “life-saving tool” ahead of regulatory meeting
A view of the Merck & Co. sign outside the company's building in Summit, N.J., on Oct. 2, 2013. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will meet to discuss the antiviral pill from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP. A Morning Consult poll shows that 54 percent of unvaccinated U.S. adults said they wouldn’t take antiviral pills if they got COVID-19 and a doctor recommended it. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
November 29, 2021 at 1:48 pm UTC

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to authorize the first antiviral pills to treat COVID-19, meaning the country could soon be armed with a tool that’s been described as a game-changer in the course of the pandemic.

New Morning Consult polling shows that while most people would take the medication if they got sick, a key group is wary of the potential new treatments: About half of unvaccinated adults said they would turn down antiviral pills if they got COVID-19, even if they were authorized by regulators and prescribed by a doctor.

Over Half of Unvaccinated Adults Say They're Wary of Potential COVID-19 Antiviral Treatments

U.S. adults were asked whether they would take a COVID-19 antiviral pill if they got sick and the treatment was FDA-authorized and prescribed by a doctor
Poll conducted Nov. 17-21, among 2,199 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-2%. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

What the numbers say:

  • Fifty-four percent of unvaccinated adults said they wouldn’t take antiviral pills if they got COVID-19 and a doctor recommended it, while 88 percent of vaccinated adults said they would take the treatment. Among adults overall, 76 percent said they’d take a COVID-19 antiviral pill.
  • The possibility of antiviral pills didn’t have much of an impact on adults’ willingness to get COVID-19 shots, whether first doses or boosters: 79 percent of vaccinated adults said they’d still get a booster shot even if antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 were available. Meanwhile, 72 percent of unvaccinated adults said they wouldn’t get a COVID-19 shot if the antivirals were accessible, in line with other Morning Consult data showing little change in the public’s vaccine willingness in recent months.

The context:

  • The findings indicate providers could hit roadblocks getting the easy-to-take oral treatment to the patients it could help most, given federal data shows unvaccinated people are significantly more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated.
  • An FDA advisory committee will meet Tuesday to discuss Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP’s antiviral pill molnupiravir, which reduced the risk of hospitalization and death in a clinical trial — though the most recent data suggests it’s 30 percent effective, down from 50 percent in an earlier analysis.
  • Meanwhile, the Biden administration bought 10 million courses of Pfizer Inc.’s antiviral treatment Paxlovid ahead of regulatory clearance, with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra saying it will “help accelerate our path out of this pandemic by offering another life-saving tool for people who get sick with COVID-19.”

45% of Adults Say COVID-19 Antiviral Pills Would Help Fight Global Severity of Disease

U.S. adults were asked how the availability of antiviral pills would affect COVID-19's severity around the world
Poll conducted Nov. 17-21, among 2,199 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of +/-2%. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

What else you should know:

  • Only 7 percent of U.S. adults said they think the availability of COVID-19 antiviral pills would completely curb the disease globally, but 38 percent think it would help make it less severe. Even so, another 28 percent think COVID-19 will be just as severe or worse. The public held similar views about how antivirals could affect COVID-19’s severity in their own communities and in the United States overall.
  • Both Pfizer and Merck have signed agreements with a U.N.-backed nonprofit to mass produce their pills for low-income countries. Yet even in the United States, it may be difficult for people to access the pills quickly enough for them to help slow the disease, given people must start taking them within three to five days of showing symptoms.
  • Most of the public hasn’t heard much about the major recent developments on COVID-19 antivirals, with 42 percent saying they’ve seen, read or heard “a lot” or “some” about the Biden administration deal with Pfizer and 30 percent saying the same of U.K. regulators’ authorization of Merck’s pill.


The poll was conducted Nov. 17-21, 2021, among 2,199 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Gaby Galvin

Gaby Galvin previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering health.

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