Jan 4, 2022 - COVID

Austin remains without effective antibody treatment

Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Austin is waiting for a new supply of sotrovimab, the only monoclonal antibody treatment known to be effective against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Driving the news: State health officials and Gov. Greg Abbott requested additional COVID-19 resources last week to help fight the latest surge of cases, including more testing sites, medical personnel and monoclonal antibody allocations from the federal government.

Texas' latest supply of sotrovimab should head to the state this week, according to Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman Douglas Loveday.

  • But Austin Public Health reported Monday that the region's infusion center remains out of sotrovimab.
  • And a spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management said its request for federal testing teams and medical staffing has not yet been filled by the federal government.

Loveday told Axios that the federal government will provide weekly allocations of monoclonal antibody treatments to the state, which are then distributed to the state-run sites by its vendor BCFS.

  • "BCFS then distributes courses to the Austin Regional Infusion Center and the other five DSHS RICs per appointment schedule and need," Loveday said.
  • This week's allocation to Texas will be 2,400 courses of sotrovimab, well short of the 66,0000 courses ordered by the state and private health care providers in the last two weeks.

Why it matters: Sotrovimab is in short supply across the country. Monoclonal antibody drugs have proven to be effective at keeping people out of the hospital.

  • Omicron causes a less severe illness than earlier variants, but health experts warn there is still a risk for hospitalization and death in older and immunocompromised populations.

Without the option of monoclonal antibody treatments in Austin, health experts offer these tips for high-risk patients who come down with Omicron, which now makes up a majority of cases in the state:

  • Contact your doctor as soon as possible to discuss treatments, including monoclonal antibody infusion and Pfizer's Paxlovid and Merck's molnupiravir oral antiviral pills.
    • While the sotrovimab infusion and pills approved for emergency use are in short supply, the Biden administration is working to secure more doses, and the antiviral pills are available to certain high-risk patients.
  • Monitor your symptoms using a thermometer and a pulse oximeter, which keeps track of blood oxygen levels. Seek medical care if your reading drops to 93% or lower.
  • See a doctor if you have trouble breathing or notice any concerning symptoms.

What they're saying: The state health agency recommends that COVID-positive Texans consult with their health care providers.

  • "We know that the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, and we encourage Texans to get vaccinated and boosted as their best defense against severe illness and hospitalization," Loveday added.

By the numbers: New statewide daily COVID cases quadrupled since the beginning of December, according to Texas health data.

  • On Dec. 1, the state reported 2,645 new confirmed cases and 975 probable cases.
  • On Dec. 30, there were 10,892 confirmed cases and 4,708 probable cases.
  • The percentage of tests taken that were positive increased from about 8.5% at the beginning of the month to more than 26% by the end of December.

​​And as of Dec. 31, 1 in 4 people had tested positive for COVID at Austin Public Health's testing sites. On Thursday, more than 1,860 tests were administered at the APH sites.

What's next: The Texas Division of Emergency Management distributed more than 767 million pieces of personal protective equipment, gave out more than 16 million tests and administered more than 54,000 therapeutic infusions at regional centers.

  • Local governments have received more than $10.4 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars, including $1.4 billion distributed through the state agency to be used for COVID response and recovery.
  • The state health agency and emergency management division will continue to operate testing sites at schools and businesses.

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