Schneck begins using new infusion treatment for omicron variant

Preliminary data from the Indiana State Department of Health show omicron is the dominant variant in the state, making up 85% of all COVID-19 cases.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a pharmaceutical intervention used to treat people who are infected with the virus that causes COVID. The treatment can prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death in high-risk patients.

Some monoclonal antibody therapies, including Bamlanivimab/Etesevimab and Casirivimab/Imdevimab, though, have proven less effective against the omicron variant.

Sotrovimab, however, has shown to be the most effective antibody therapy to fight that variant.

On Wednesday, Schneck Medical Center in Seymour began using that therapy.

The hospital only received 102 doses. The federal government — and thus the state government — is allocating a very small supply every week. For Indiana, that’s approximately 1,000 doses.

The federal government reviews the number of cases in each state to determine the how many doses will be sent. Hospitals providing monoclonal antibody therapy request doses from the state based on many factors, such as doses on hand and doses used. The state then distributes doses in a fair and equitable manner.

Due to the limited supply and upon the recommendation from ISDH, Schneck has adopted the National Institutes of Health prioritization process.

The highest priority is people who are immunocompromised, unvaccinated 75 or older or unvaccinated 65 or older with comorbidities. High priority is those unvaccinated at risk of severe disease. Moderate priority is those vaccinated 75 or older with comorbidities. Low priority is those vaccinated at risk of severe disease.

Kathy Covert, vice president of workforce and support services for Schneck, said the hospital feels the monoclonal antibody therapy has been very effective in treating patients, and it will continue to do that.

With Sotrovimab now available but the supply being scarce, she said they will follow the NIH’s prioritization process to treat those who are most vulnerable and susceptible.

“We just want people to know that we want to continue to support them through this pandemic and provide to them the resources that they need,” she said. “We’re certainly going to be hopeful that there will be more allocation in the future and we’ll be able to treat more patients.”

Schneck began monoclonal antibody therapy in November 2020 and was one of the first sites in the state, said Stephanie Furlow, the hospital’s director of marketing and public relations.

As of Thursday, Schneck has given 2,571 total monoclonal treatments to date. That includes treating those who tested positive for the beta and delta variants.

“In the past, the other medications were fairly easy to obtain, so our supply was much, much greater,” Covert said. “Obviously, we could treat more patients because we had a larger supply of that.”

Once the state determined the cases of omicron were above 80%, it recommended all monoclonal antibody infusion sites primarily give Sotrovimab.

“As soon as the state of Indiana became omicron dominant, we knew that we would have to change our antibody therapy so that we’re getting the most effective medication to individuals,” Covert said.

After the intravenous infusion is ordered by a physician, the patient goes to the Schneck Professional Building for it to be administered.

“People like the convenience of just being able to drive into the parking garage, come get your infusion and go home. I think people really like that a lot,” Covert said.

Late this week, 81 of 92 Indiana counties — including Jackson — were in the red advisory level on the ISDH’s COVID-19 dashboard. That’s the highest of the four levels.

“We obviously still believe that the greatest prevention of progressing to severe disease or hospitalization or death is to get vaccinated, and when a person is eligible, to get boosted,” Covert said.

Layered prevention strategies can slow the spread of COVID-19. Besides getting vaccinated and the booster shot, Schneck said people should wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status, stay home if they are not feeling well and wash their hands frequently.

Schneck is offering walk-in vaccine clinics for two hours on Wednesdays and Fridays in the Level 1 lobby of the Schneck Professional Building.

“Even though omicron is spreading, we still continue to see lower risk for those people that have been vaccinated and certainly those that have gotten their boosters,” Covert said.