Within a few weeks, perhaps before many Americans finish decorating for the holidays, the U.S. could have access to a new antiviral pill from Merck expected to alter the deadly trajectory of the covid-19 pandemic — with a second option from Pfizer to follow shortly after.

Now under federal review, both pills are being hailed by infectious-disease doctors not prone to superlatives.

“This is truly a game changer,” said Dr. Daniel Griffin, an expert on infectious diseases and immunology at Columbia University. “This is up there with vaccines. It’s not a substitute for vaccines; we still want to get people vaccinated. But, boy, this is just another great tool to have.”

The new regimens, which require 30 or 40 pills to be

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