COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is still around, even though vaccines are now widely available.

For those who do get sick from the virus, additional treatments could soon be on the way.

“We need more convenient outpatient medications for people,” OhioHealth’s Dr. Joseph Gastaldo emphasizes.

Those medications could soon arrive soon rather than later.

“Two companies — Merck and Pfizer — are essentially working on a Tamiflu for COVID-19,” Dr. Gastaldo adds.

The U.S. government has already agreed to pay Merck & Co. more than $1 billion for their experimental drug.

A sign that emergency use authorization is not far away.

“Somebody would have symptoms, they would get tested, and then in a short period of time, get an antiviral for COVID-19,” Dr. Gastaldo describes. “The trials are not yet done, completely published to officially review, but tentatively, they do sound quite promising. And I think that’s something we need in our toolbox moving forward. We really need outpatient treatments that people can get access to in a short period of time.”

The drug may not be accessible to everyone from the start.

“I don’t know with certainty if the studies are only going to be for adults, it could also be too that when they first get authorized, they may only be authorized for at-risk individuals,” Dr. Gastaldo admits.

In addition to the latest oral treatments on the way, experts say a number of nasal sprays that kill the virus as it enters the body is also being tested.

“Theoretically you might be able to take a nasal spray full of the neutralizing antibodies, so when you spray, you’re actually spraying something in your nose that would actually neutralize the virus that’s already there,” said Dr. Gastaldo.

For OhioHealth’s leading infectious disease expert, the pending treatments only further highlight the progress made in medicine over the past two years.

Still, the vaccine remains our best defense.

“Today at Riverside Methodist Hospital we only have one patient in the hospital with COVID-19, and this one particular patient has not been vaccinated,” said Dr. Gastaldo.

Currently, the only COVID-19 treatments available to those with symptomatic COVID-19 either have to be administered through an IV or are only available to patients already hospitalized.

So, when might these new treatments arrive?

“I do think by the end of the year, hopefully, the next couple of months we’ll have some options available,” said Dr. Gastaldo.

As for how the drugs will be administered once they’re authorized, Dr. Gastaldo said he’s confident they won’t be made available over the counter, but the distribution of them to pharmacies and hospitals will be determined by how they are authorized.