NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - More than 90% of COVID cases in our area are the Omicron variant, according to the CDC. A big issue doctors are facing is the shortage of monoclonal antibody treatments that will work on this variant. Only one of three COVID antibody treatments have been found to help Omicron patients.
At a White House briefing at the end of August, Fauci, President Joe Biden's senior medical adviser, implored doctors to use monoclonal antibodies more frequently, noting that they can reduce the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death by 70 to 85%.
"The variant is so different that these antibodies can't find a landing place or a connecting area and so they are not effective. The one that is still effective is a much more conserved area on the spike protein, so it still is able to attach and prevent propagation of infection," Dr. Karen Bloch, the medical director for Vanderbilt's COVID Infusion Clinic said.
"Historically we have been using other two [antibody treatments] preferentially. They are the older ones, they are more established, we had a larger supply of them and then this again has kind of shifted our needs significantly and there has been a shortage."
Dr. Bloch says the surge of Omicron cases has caused a shortage of Sotrovimab, the one monoclonal antibody treatment that's been preventing Omicron patients from becoming seriously ill. Sotrovimab is the only antibody treatment doctors are giving out right now since the omicron variant is now accounting for more than 90% of COVID cases.
"We have been told that at this point, essentially everything that's being detected is Omicron, so we are just assuming that only the single antibody is going to be effective for the vast majority of the patients," Dr. Bloch said.
Sotrovimab is the newest treatment that was cleared back in May. It was already in high demand before omicron became the dominant COVID strain. Now, the supply is very limited.
The rapidly-spreading omicron variant may soon leave U.S. doctors without two of the standard treatments they’ve used to fight COVID-19.
"We wish we could treat everybody or at least everybody that meet the emergency use authorization criteria, but because of shortages in this treatment, we are only able to offer it to those who would be at the very, very highest risk of hospitalization and an adverse outcome," Dr. Bloch said.
They are having to save the treatment for patients who need it most.
"Originally, the treatment was approved for patients 12 and up and we still use that age criteria, but some of the other comorbidities that previously allowed us to treat patients, unfortunately we have such a restricted supply, we are not able to use those. So the criteria have been really tightened up and we're focusing on those patients who would be least likely to be able to mount their own immune response if they got natural infection or were given vaccine."
If you are immunocompromised, have COVID, and want to get the antibody treatment, you can be referred by your healthcare provider or call the COVID hotline. Here's a link where you can find monoclonal antibody treatments:
Doctor Bloch says getting vaccinated is still the best way to prevent Covid-19.