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More vulnerable people receiving fewer COVID pills - U.S. study

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June 21 (Reuters) - People in socially and economically disadvantaged regions are about half as likely to receive an oral antiviral COVID-19 pill than residents of wealthier zip codes, according to a U.S. government study published on Tuesday.

The findings by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed this disparity even as there were more dispensing sites located in high-vulnerability U.S. zip codes than in the more advantaged areas.

The CDC study comes amid government efforts in recent months to boost access to the treatments from Pfizer and Merck.

CDC researchers analysed data from Dec. 23, 2021 to May 21, 2022 when more than 1 million oral antiviral prescriptions were dispensed in the United States, with most of the drugs given out between March and May.

The findings underscore an ongoing need to identify and eliminate barriers to oral antiviral access, the agency said.

Federal efforts to expand access to the treatments include the "Test to Treat" initiative that allows Americans to get tested for COVID-19 at a pharmacy and receive free pills if they test positive.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)