Infusion treatment hopes to prepare for new wave of delta variant in Missouri

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Here are three big words you could be hearing a lot in the near future: monoclonal antibody infusions.

The treatments are a centerpiece of Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s $30 million plan to prepare for a wave of new patients battling COVID-19’s delta variant.

The first line of defense is vaccinations. The second, as laid out by Robert J. Knodell, acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, are these infusions.

“Monoclonal antibody infusions are for individuals who have been infected that are positive with COVID-19 and in many cases have co-morbidities or risk factors that would put them at higher risk for hospitalizations, severe illness, or deaths,” Knodell said.

People may remember that over the winter there was a different type of infusion used for treatment. That was convalescent plasma, collected by organizations like Community Blood Center from people who had recovered from COVID-19.

Those collections have largely stopped since April. The new infusions promoted by the governor are lab-made.

According to the people managing the existing program in Springfield, individual treatments needs to happen within 10 days of symptom onset, the sooner, the better.

Appointments can last between two and three hours. A nurse will go over the medication because it is on the FDA’s emergency use authorization and the patient must give consent.

A nurse then places an IV line and the infusion takes between 30 minutes to an hour. The patient is then monitored for one hour.

That is how the program currently works in Springfield through the Jordan Valley Community Health Center (partnering with The Missouri Disaster Medical Assistance Team and CoxHealth).

“Is this something that your doctor would recommend to you? Do you sign up for it? Is it the health department seeing that you had a positive COVID test and recommending it and calling?” FOX4’s Jacob Kittilstad asked.

“All of the above,” Dr. Lisa Cillessen, a clinical pharmacist at Jordan Valley Community Health Center, said.

Cillessen said they have 10 beds able to treat multiple patients each day in Springfield, Missouri. Parson’s plan would add between five and eight more facilities across the state with the ability to treat up to 2,000 patients a day.

“I really haven’t had any pushback from patients. Typically when you give them the information, I’m all about giving them the information, so I talk through the clinical trials in terms of what we saw,” Cillessen said.

“We also go over safety with the patients in terms of what side effects could happen and the number of patients who are having side effects,” Cillessen said.

“And most of the time they don’t feel well and so they will do just about anything to feel better. So it hasn’t really deterred too many patients. It has deterred a few but not nearly as many as what we see with the vaccine,” Cillessen said.

Neither Parson’s office nor DHSS has released a timeline on the establishment of the new monoclonal antibody infusion station. The location of these stations also have not been publicly released but they could target hotspots across Missouri.

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