National shortages, surging omicron variant prompt Ballad Health to limit use of antibody treatments

Published 10:30 am Friday, January 7, 2022

From Staff Reports

Because of a national supply shortage, Ballad Health is limiting the use of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19.

Ballad announced the change in protocols in a release on Thursday, stating “the updated guidance is intended to ensure those most at risk are able to receive this potentially life-saving treatment.”

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Monoclonal antibody treatments have been an effective tool in fighting COVID-19 but have proven less effective against the omicron variant, which Ballard said “is now the dominant strain in our region and across the nation.”

Nationally, the monoclonal antibodies that are effective against the growing omicron variant are in short supply.

“With the highly contagious omicron variant circulating in our region, requests for these therapies at Ballad Health facilities have far outpaced the supply made available to Ballad Health,” the statement said.

Carter County reported 45 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven-day reporting period, as the region saw a 76% increase in new cases.

Citing guidance from the National Institutes of Health, Ballad said the antibody treatments will be “prioritized for patients who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infections because of factors like age, chronic medical conditions, immunocompromised, vaccination status, etc.”

Additionally, patients now have access to two COVID-19 antiviral pills manufactured by Pfizer and Merck, both of which were recently authorized by the FDA. “Patients who are sick with COVID-19 but don’t qualify for MAB therapy can ask their healthcare provider if they qualify for other COVID-19 therapeutics such as these antiviral pills,” the statement said.

The health system also reiterated the importance of vaccinations.

“Previously, those who chose not to vaccinate had a readily available supply of monoclonal antibodies in the event they were affected by the virus and had severe symptoms,” the statement said. “With the supply of effective monoclonal antibodies being limited, or exhausted, vaccination becomes the best way to minimize the effect of the virus in the likely event a person is exposed. This virus is highly contagious, and the likelihood of exposure is very high even if you are vaccinated.”
The statement went on to say that “until the supply of monoclonal antibodies becomes more readily available, Ballad Health is concerned that hospitalizations, and possibly deaths, will increase as a result of this shortage combined with low vaccination rates.:

The most recent data shows only 49.2% of the population in Northeast Tennessee is fully vaccinated.

COVid-19 cases spike in Northeast Tennessee due to Omicron Variant