Omicron takes hold: Vicksburg, state reporting shortage of monoclonal antibody treatments

Published 2:18 pm Thursday, January 6, 2022

It’s like a scratched record that keeps playing the same thing over and over — COVID 19.

The Omicron variant, while reportedly having milder symptoms than other strains of the coronavirus, has taken the nation by storm and Vicksburg has not been spared.

The number of cases in Vicksburg alone has made the county a hotspot, according to officials with the Mississippi State Department of Health, and there seems to be no end in sight.

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There are long lines at test sites in Warren County due to the demand for testing. And in clinics, MSDH Chief Medical Officer and local physician Dr. Dan Edney said, due to the “overwhelming demand” and limited availability of tests, most clinics are only testing those with symptoms.

Mississippi and Vicksburg are also seeing a shortage of monoclonal antibody therapies, which may provide life-saving treatment. As a result, the use of monoclonal antibodies is being restricted.

The issue with the monoclonal therapy “restriction,” Edney said, is “twofold.”

“There is a very limited supply coming into the state, and what we have must be prioritized to those most in need,” he said. “Basically, you must be 65 or older or have comorbid conditions that make you immunocompromised and have significant symptoms to receive treatment, if it is available.”

Second, Edney said, is the fact that out of the three available monoclonal antibody treatments, “only one works on Omicron, which is 80 percent of cases now — and that medicine is in the shortest supply,” he said.

Marc Rolph, who is the executive director of communications at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, echoed Edney’s assessment of the availability of COVID-19 treatments in the state.

“We are near the end of our Regen-COV and Bamlanivimab/Etesevimab monoclonal antibodies or may already be out. We have received a very limited supply of the new Sotrovimab monoclonal antibodies that we can use on select outpatients, under the right conditions,” Rolph said.

The reason for the shortage, Edney said, is not due to the state making requests.

“Dr. Dobbs (Mississippi State Department of Health Officer) is pushing and fighting to get every dose we can,” Edney said. “It’s the Federal Government who controls the distribution to the states.”

Therefore, until more tests and monoclonal therapies are received, Edney said, “If you are concerned regarding your symptoms, you should call your doctor. We will determine if you need testing.”

For those with mild cases of the virus, Edney said, patients will be treated with vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc.

“Moderate symptoms, we’ll add cough and decongestant meds and perhaps an inhaler if needed with possible steroids if warranted,” he said. “Antibiotics are only used if we are concerned about a bacterial component in addition to COVID.”

While the number of breakthrough cases is rising, Edney said, vaccines are still the best protection against COVID-19.

“Everyone is susceptible to COVID. Many vaccines are able to mitigate the severity of illness but may not fully prevent infection,” he said. “This is true with the influenza vaccine and true with the COVID vaccine. Those at the highest risk are the unvaccinated and the lowest risk are the vaccinated with appropriate boosting.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of Jan. 6, Warren County has reported 447 active COVID-19 cases, a 40.75% case positivity rate and 13 new hospital admissions. MSDH data was updated this week for the two-week period ending Dec. 25, during which 180 cases were recorded.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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