Michigan is getting its first federal shipment of COVID-19 pills that can be taken at home with mid-Michigan a targeted region for distribution.

The arrival comes amid record high coronavirus cases and near-peak hospitalizations. The availability of antivirals is limited.

"They would be a game changer in the fact that they are readily available and likely more accepted by patients than an injectable medication," said Dr. Nicholas Haddad, infectious disease specialist at CMU's College of Medicine.

State health officials said the first allocation of COVID-19 pills landed in Michigan.

"They are practical tools for reducing the severity of disease," Haddad said.

The state received around 7,000 courses of Merck's Molnupiravir, and 1,600 courses of Pfizer's Paxlovoid. MDHHS said the pills will be distributed mainly through Meijer pharmacies, but not everyone is eligible.

"They're reserved for individuals who are at high risk of progressing into COVID-19 severe disease," Haddad said.

Dr. Haddad said that includes obese patients, patients with a chronic respiratory disease, and other high-risk individuals.

"These are quite the last resort. These are medications indicated for non-hospitalized patients because they do not work when it's very severe. That's why we want to use them as early as possible," Haddad said.

Haddad said they are intended to be taken within five days of COVID-19 diagnosis. 

"They are definitely a very useful tool. They're easy to prescribe, easy to take, rather than get a healthcare professional to the house or send the patient to urgent care to get monoclonal antibodies," Haddad said.

He said it is another option to fight COVID-19 after onset of infection, but not to prevent infection in the first place.

"The one thing that really does prevent is vaccines, because they build up immunity," Haddad said.

The pills are prescription only and will be distributed in the hardest-hit areas like Detroit, the thumb area, and Bay region.

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