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Demand for COVID-19 antibody infusions exceeds hospital’s capacity

Darris Echols of Gulfport watches Tuesday as the Regeneron monoclonal antibody drips into his...
Darris Echols of Gulfport watches Tuesday as the Regeneron monoclonal antibody drips into his IV at the Memorial Hospital at Gulfport infusion clinic.(John Fitzhugh)
Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 6:17 PM CDT
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SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Both Memorial Hospital at Gulfport and Singing River Hospital System have recently expanded the availability of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody infusions. The recent dramatic rise in positive COVID-19 cases has pushed both institutions beyond their capacity to treat patients.

“We need to increase our capability to give monoclonal antibody infusions,” said nurse practitioner Kristian Spear, advance practice manager for Memorial. “The community’s need exceeded what we were able to do. So we are expanded and currently looking for more ways to expand very quickly. "

Memorial added a third infusion clinic last week, and Singing River expanded its Pascagoula clinic to be able to treat more patients, but it still isn’t enough to keep up with demand.

“Right now, we have the capacity to do 60 patients a day,” Spear said. “We need to be able to do a hundred a day at least, and we anticipate that number is going to go up.”

Singing River is seeing similar numbers.

“We’re trying our best to get everybody in in a timely manner. That’s why we had to expand the hours of operation and into our Harrison County as well,” explained nurse practitioner Jason Ely, director of primary care services at Singing River. “We’re getting a backlog of people needing to get the treatments done.”

The reason for the demand is the high success rate of the treatment.

“The success rate we’ve been having so far is about a 98% success rate of people that get the Regeneron do not get admitted to the hospital,” Ely said. “There’s always that 2% that probably should have been admitted to the hospital prior to the treatment, and we’ve had nobody that has passed away that has currently had Regeneron.”

“Patients report feeling much better, some patients while they’re still sitting in the chair,” Spear said. “A lot of patients don’t feel better until the next morning, but it’s almost like a light switch goes off. They go from feeling really bad to complete almost resolution of symptoms. About 85% reduction of symptoms by that next day.”

Darris Echols of Gulfport was diagnosed with COVID-19 last Wednesday. For him, the treatment couldn’t come soon enough.

“The way I’ve been feeling after catching COVID, I wanted to exhaust all resources to get to feeling better,” he said.

Tony McMillan of Moss Point was also eager to receive the treatment at Singing River, despite not trusting COVID-19 vaccines.

“I heard about it and I was ready to get it,” he said on Monday.

The treatment was given emergency use authorization by the FDA in November about three weeks before the first vaccine was approved for emergency use.

Patients need to receive the infusion within 10 days of the onset of symptoms, but the treatment is more effective if received sooner.

“It’s important that people understand that early in monoclonal antibody is vital,” Spear said. “We can give it up to 10 days. We see best results if we can give it within seven days of the date of symptom onset, so the minute you’re starting to have a symptom, go get tested.

“The sooner you can get in and get the infusion the quicker you’re going to get better. It’s reducing hospitalizations, it’s reducing all the secondary effects that COVID can cause, and ultimately it’s reducing death.”

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