Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC this week he hopes an at-home oral drug that could treat COVID-19 will be available to Americans by the end of 2021.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill, explained

Back in March, Pfizer started early trials into a “COVID vaccine pill,” which would stop COVID-19 at the first sign of illness.

  • “The drug is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate in human cells,” according to CNBC.
  • According to The Hill, this new COVID-19 vaccine pill “is a potent protease inhibitor, the same kind of technology used to treat HIV and hepatitis C. Protease inhibitors bind to a viral enzyme and prevent the virus from replicating in the cell.”
Pfizer is working on a COVID-19 vaccine pill, too

When will the COVID-19 vaccine pill be available?

Bourla said he hopes the drug will be available by the end of 2021. Experts see the pill as “a game-changer because people newly infected with the virus could use it outside of hospitals,” per CNBC.

Other COVID-19 vaccine pills

Yes, there are other vaccine pills in the works to help combat COVID-19. As I wrote for the Deseret News, the company Oravax said it is also working on a pill for clinical trials in 2021.

Wait, are they making a COVID-19 vaccine pill?
Scientists want to make an ideal COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s what that would look like

Will COVID-19 vaccine pills really stop COVID-19?

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, told Business Insider that there’s no guarantee that a pill will stop COVID-19 symptoms, but it is a positive step forward in finding therapeutics against the virus.

  • “We would need properly conducted studies to prove (oral vaccines’) worth,” he said. “But they may also be of value in people who are severely needle phobic and may be easier and more rapid to administer.”