Critical care teams worry over COVID-19 therapeutic accessibility in Omaha

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 6:35 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Concerns continue to rise over a shortage of treatment medicines used for those who get COVID-19 forcing hospitals to prioritize patients who would benefit the most.

As the lion’s share of COVID-19 patients in hospitals are unvaccinated, local critical care teams have to prioritize who gets the specific monoclonal antibodies.

Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in a lab that mirror the body’s immune system to fight off, in this case, COVID-19.

Critical care team members at CHI Health in Omaha have recognized a shortage and have developed a new plan of prioritizing which patients would benefit the most from getting it, and in what order.

“We buckled down on who in clinical trials showed the most benefits and tried to use it first and foremost in patients with those cases and go from there,” said Dr. Douglas Moore, a critical care pulmonologist at CHI Health.

For example, one therapeutic is stronger for patients on mechanical ventilators while a different one works better on patients with certain comorbidities on lower forms of oxygen.

This week, as federal officials took over the distribution of therapeutics, Nebraska learned its weekly allotment of monoclonal antibodies will be cut from 819 to 760 doses.

“We’re disappointed the government has cut back on this, but we’re not the only state. This is something we’ve used effectively in Nebraska to treat people,” Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday.

Ricketts said this early therapy has kept Nebraska veteran’s homes free of COVID-19 deaths this year. He also reiterated that the best tool available to combat the pandemic is the vaccine.

“Vaccine is not a guarantee to not contract COVID, but the data is there that vaccinations reduce the likelihood of hospitalizations and severe symptoms,” the governor said.

The federal government has ordered more than 1 million additional doses of monoclonal antibodies after the recent soaring demand.

By taking over distribution, the federal government hopes to make the COVID-19 therapy more equitable among states before states and hospitals placed their own orders.

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