MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The CDC says everyone 65 and older should have access to the COVID-19 vaccine; in the Mid-South access is only fully available right now in Mississippi.
Arkansas is vaccinating those 70 and older and moving onto those age 65+ in April.
Tennessee doesn’t project those 65 and older will be eligible until March, right now they are vaccinating those between 70 and 75+.
As the Mid-South’s most at risk wait to get their vaccinations, local health experts want seniors fighting COVID-19 to know about the Monoclonal Antibody treatment.
”Some of the data that we see in this were actually quite promising. It cut down the percentage of people that needed to go get admitted to the hospital even in high-risk patients by up to 2/3,” said Baptist Infectious Diseases Expert Dr. Steve Thelkeld.
Threlkeld says the treatment is available for those 65 and older who have tested positive for the virus.
Baptist was one of the first hospital systems in the country to apply this kind of treatment starting on Nov. 16.
”You have to have an infusion center with containment facilities to keep from infecting other people, you have to have all those things up and running, but you also have to give it to people fairly quickly, so after 10 days of symptoms it’s not approved with this emergency use authorization,” said Threlkeld.
He says more than 2,700 Baptist patients in the Mid-South have received the treatment and when looking at data from just one clinic of 200 patients, only three had to be hospitalized.
Methodist says they began administering the treatment in early December and can treat up to 28 patients a day. As of Jan. 20, they have performed nearly 450 infusions.
Regional One Health recently started offering the treatment to observation patients and they anticipate the treatment will help avoid hospital admissions for these patients.
Shelby County Health Director Dr. Alisa Haushalter says the department has been trying to get the word out about the treatment to improve hospital capacity.
”We need more people to understand that treatment is available and to access that treatment,” she said.
The treatment is free of charge at Baptist and Methodist but does require a doctor’s referral.