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COVID-19 treatments in short supply across the Mid-South

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 9:09 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2022 at 9:10 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There are over 21,000 active COVID-19 cases in Shelby County and while most will develop mild to moderate symptoms, some may require additional treatment.

However, most of the therapeutics to fight the virus are in short supply or not available at all.

When patients land in hospitals, not much has changed since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Once someone gets sick enough to require oxygen and be in the hospital, things have not greatly changed. It’s really steroid and supportive care,” said Baptist Memorial Hospital infectious disease expert, Dr. Steve Threlkeld.

Threlkeld says where science has made some advancement is in how to prevent hospitalization. Monoclonal antibodies have been the gold standard if administered early enough.

The Tennessee Department of Health website lists the antibody treatment in extremely low supply, but some of that supply may be useless against the new variant.

“Really, omicron has done away with the effectiveness of most of them we have been using,” Threlkeld said. “There’s one called Sotrovimab that is available in very small numbers. We hope to have more of it locally in the very near future. It’s still effective against omicron and it still decreases the need for hospitalization of more severe cases of that disease by up to 80 percent for those that are at high risk.”

However, an even more effective treatment for the virus is the new COVID-19 pill, which is considered a game-changer by health officials for high-risk patients to take at home.

Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced the government would buy an additional 10 million courses of Paxlovoid, Pfizer’s oral antiviral treatment.

With the new order, the U.S. has committed to purchase at least 20 million courses from Pfizer, but in the meantime, the COVID pill is difficult to find in the Mid-South.

A CVS spokesperson says they don’t have it in any Mid-South state. Walgreens says it’s available in 30 states but would not say which ones.

We checked with Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, which says its pharmacies do not have the antiviral medication.

A Baptist Hospital spokesperson says the treatment is available only at Walmart locations in Tennessee and Arkansas. However, its Northeast Arkansas Baptist location has it available and its four Mississippi hospitals will receive it soon.

In the meantime, hospitals are inching closer to capacity across the Mid-South. Most of the hospitalized COVID-positive patients are unvaccinated.

Both monoclonal antibody treatment and the COVID-19 pill must be prescribed by your healthcare provider.

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