How Big a Risk COVID Is to the Queen, 95, What Drugs Are Available to Her

Queen Elizabeth II may be provided with antiviral drugs after she tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

Due to her age, the 95-year-old British monarch is at increased risk of severe disease from coronavirus compared to younger people—though she is said to be experiencing mild cold-like symptoms since contracting the virus.

Age is a well-known risk factor associated with COVID-19, with over 81 percent of deaths occurring in people over the age of 65 according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Similarly, the number of deaths among people over the age of 65 is 97 times higher than the number of deaths among people aged 18 to 29, the CDC states.

On the other hand, the Queen is understood to be vaccinated with a booster according to U.K. newspaper The Guardian. In addition, there are many more COVID-19 risk factors than just age.

There are multiple pre-existing medical conditions—such as obesity, diabetes and cancer—that can strongly increase one's risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19.

While the Queen's full medical history is hardly public knowledge, the monarch has continued to carry out royal duties and make public appearances well into her 90s. She was reported to have been lying low late last year on doctors' orders, and had sprained her back.

The Queen will currently be under the care of her personal medical team, the royal Medical Household, which is headed by British physician Sir Huw Thomas.

Part of the monarch's care could involve the use of antiviral medication, according to Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia. He told the PA news agency over the weekend that the Queen's healthcare team would "almost certainly be considering" the use of such medications, and added: "With somebody in their mid-90s, even if they're triple vaccinated you are concerned that they could gradually deteriorate over coming days and so you would need to keep a very careful eye on them."

Antivirals are medications that help the body fight off viruses. Though they cannot prevent COVID-19, they can reduce symptoms and shorten the length of illness,

Multiple antiviral medications for COVID-19 are currently available on the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K., such as Paxlovid, which is a combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir; remdesivir, also known as Veklury; and molnupiravir, also known as Lagevrio.

In December last year, the U.K. government reported that a clinical trial in high-risk adults with COVID-19 found that the risk of COVID-related hospitalization and death within 28 days was reduced by 89 percent with a five-day course of Paxlovid, compared to a placebo group, when treatment was started within three days of symptoms.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II seen smiling at an event in Ascot, England, in October, 2021. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty