The Hawaii Division of Well being broadcasts federal groups nationwide will help with COVID-19 antibody therapies
The Hawaii Department of Health announced today that a federal team of 30 clinicians will arrive in the state later this month to help administer monoclonal antibody therapy to COVID-19 patients.
The demand for the therapy has increased, reducing severe illness in people recently infected with COVID-19. Several of the therapies have received emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.
Improved access to therapy can relieve the already overburdened hospitals in Hawaii. However, officials stressed that monoclonal antibody therapy is not a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19.
“Targeted use of monoclonal antibodies could prevent Hawaii COVID-19 patients from developing serious illnesses that require hospitalization,” said Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char in a press release. “However, the COVID-19 vaccination remains the most effective way to create long-lasting immunity and prevent serious illness and death. The increasing access to therapy with monoclonal antibodies will relieve our hospitals. We thank our state and federal partners for their support. “
Treatment with monoclonal antibodies is approved for people 12 years old and older with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for serious illness but will not be hospitalized and do not need supplemental oxygen, officials said. Patients must also be referred by a doctor.
Numerous hospitals and health centers across the country including Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Queen’s Medical Center West, Maui Memorial Health Center, Straub, and Wilcox Medical Center on Kauai , offer monoclonal antibodies against COVID patients.
Hilo Medical Center first used the treatment last year for hospital patients, including long-term care patients, with good results, said spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.
However, demand increased, especially in summer. The hospital performed about 75 treatments in August and has done about 25 this month.
Hilo Medical Center has also had operations beyond capacity in the past three weeks, she said, with 38 COVID patients in the house on Friday, as well as 12 long-haul vehicles that are no longer contagious but are still very sick. Eight long-haul pilots are on ventilators. Most between the ages of 20 and 50 are unvaccinated.
There are 19 intensive care patients in the hospital, even though there are only 11 intensive care beds, she said, so they will be placed in other areas including a third floor unit and the emergency room.
Kaiser Permanente offers monoclonal antibody treatments at its Moanalua, Oahu facility and its Maui Lani medical office, Wailuku.
Kaiser has been offering the treatments at Moanalua since January, but demand is growing. In the past week, 65 treatments were carried out there, according to Kaiser spokeswoman Laura Lott, which was an all-time high.
Kaiser welcomes the help of federal employees and hopes to be able to ramp up and offer up to 30 treatments per day.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing the 30 clinicians expected to arrive on September 19.
According to the DOH, six teams will be stationed at hospitals or state-qualified health centers across the state, performing treatments that require monitoring and the ability to respond to reactions or other medical events seven days a week. The teams will give monoclonal antibodies by injection.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is not a substitute for vaccination, officials said, as it provides brief immunity compared to the longer-lasting immunity created by vaccination.
“We are taking another strategic step to maintain hospital capacity at a time of unprecedented demand,” said Hilton Raethel, President and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii in the press release. “Increasing the number of COVID-positive residents receiving this therapy will lead to a reduction in symptoms and lower demand for our hospitals.”