JACKSON — The University of Mississippi Medical Center is offering free monoclonal antibody infusion treatment to Mississippians with symptomatic COVID-19 without the need for a doctor’s visit in an attempt to stave off additional hospitalizations and deaths in the depths of the delta surge.
Monoclonal antibodies are a treatment for individuals newly infected with COVID-19, capable of stimulating a robust immune response to the virus. The antibody infusion targets the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, blunting the severity of the infection even if treatment is received after a positive diagnosis and the onset of symptoms. Anyone may sign up for an appointment at UMMC’s new field hospital on campus in Garage B through this website.
“We know that monoclonal antibody treatments may help patients avoid progression of mild symptoms into severe disease requiring hospitalization or leading to death,” wrote Dr. Alan Jones, UMMC’s associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs. “The availability of this clinic offers UMMC another tool in combating the devastating effects of this pandemic … alleviating the burden (on) the state’s hospital system.”
Some restrictions apply to those signing up for the treatment. Prospective patients must complete a screening process to sign up for an infusion. Currently, candidates for monoclonal antibody treatment must be within 10 days of diagnosis, at least mildly symptomatic, and either 65 years of age or older or diagnosed with a relevant pre-existing condition.
Numerous conditions qualify, including obesity, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular or lung disease, as well as a variety of other potential complications for a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Public-health leadership has implored newly infected Mississippians to get monoclonal antibodies as soon as they possibly can, especially those who have avoided getting vaccinated. At a press event last Friday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs stressed the immense benefit of monoclonal antibodies to anyone who qualifies for them.
The majority of Mississippi’s population is still unvaccinated, and this group stands to benefit most powerfully from antibody infusions, Dobbs explained. “If you’re someone who is vaccine hesitant and haven’t made that jump, don’t be antibody hesitant, right? If you get COVID, we don’t want to be having the conversation as you’re getting wheeled into the ICU saying, ‘Hey doc, what can I do about it now?’ (Now) it’s too late.”
Research on monoclonal antibody effectiveness is very promising, with a recent study finding the practice meaningfully “decreased likelihood of emergency care or hospitalization,” given that the infusion was given in time to be effective. Currently, UMMC’s field hospital for monoclonal antibody treatment can serve at least 40 patients per day.
In a statement, UMMC also indicated that “individuals who are not COVID-positive, but are seeking MAB treatment because they are high-risk patients and have experienced a close COVID-19 exposure can visit the MSDH website for qualifying criteria and available treatment locations for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis of COVID-19.”
The Mississippi State Department of Health announced 7,839 new cases of COVID-19 for the weekend, including Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The highest weekend numbers of the pandemic, following Friday’s single-day all-time case high, forced MSDH to extend the COVID-19 system of care plan for the state.
The state health officer has already delayed all elective surgeries requiring overnight stays belonging to tiers 1 and 2—which includes a massive range of non-life-saving procedures.
The extended delay is likely to persist as long as the spread of COVID-19 continues to overwhelm the hospital system.