Since mid-November, the Cough and Fever Clinic - a service of Forrest General Hospital and Hattiesburg Clinic - has offered access to COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments, which is designed to help prevent progression of the disease and speed up recovery of COVID-positive patients.
Less than a year later, officials from the clinic, which is located at 5909 U.S. 49 in Hattiesburg, have announced the clinic has increased its capacity for treatments from 100 per week to 277 treatments per week. The services are available from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, from noon-6 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 1 p.m.-6 p.m. on Sundays.
“What’s better now is that we’ve got more of the medications, and more access to resources to get it to patients,” Hattiesburg Clinic physician Samuel Crosby said. “The programs that we developed at Hattiesburg Clinic … our mortality rate was already a fraction of what it was statewide and national. What I was excited about was, if we can get these to people early, we’ll have less people needing supplemental oxygen, less people developing pneumonia, less people getting blood clots.
"Ideally, you’re also trying to prevent hospitalizations, and that has worked as well, but it’s not just the hospitalization numbers; it’s how sick people get overall. So that’s what got me excited about getting started with it.”
To book an appointment free of charge, patients can call (601) 261-1533 or log in to their Iris account and use the patient portal. To qualify, individuals must be at least 12 years of age, weigh at least 88 pounds and have had COVID within the last 10 days.
“If you had COVID way in the past, it doesn’t do any good; you have to have had it in the last 10 days, and not already gotten sick to the point where you need more oxygen than you normally do,” Crosby said. “If you meet those criteria, and you’re considered high risk, then you can get the antibodies.
"By high risk, that means anybody 65 and older, folks that are overweight or with a (Body Mass Index) of over 25, pregnancy, diabetes, blood pressure, immunosuppressive drugs, heart disease, asthma. There’s a whole list of disorders, and if you have any of those and are 12 and older, and you’ve got an acute case of COVID, then you qualify."
When the monoclonal antibody treatments were first made available to patients, the only option was a one-time intravenous infusion that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. Because of the spike in COVID cases, a second option is now available, which consists of four subcutaneous injections.
Whichever route the patient chooses, they will be required to remain in the clinic for an hour while officials monitor them for any side effects.
“An antibody makes a protein that your body produces to help your immune system fight infections, cancer or whatever,” Crosby said. “These monoclonal antibodies are protein molecules developed in the lab to try to help your body do the same thing.
“There are several of these that are on the market; the one that’s being used now goes by the name of Regeneron, and it’s two different ones mixed together. It’s the one being used mainly because it’s better against the delta variant, and initially, there were some issues with them being able to produce enough, but now that’s now an issue. We can get as many as we want now.”
So far, officials have given between 1,500 and 1,800 antibody treatments and have yet to see a negative reaction from patients.
“The only problem you have with an IV, is that sometimes it hurts to get an IV put in your arm; sometimes you have a little bleeding and bruising there,” Crosby said. “The most common issue people have with the shots is that they get a little bit nauseated, and of course it stings a little bit where you get the shot.
“They warn about possible bad allergic reactions and things like that … but we haven’t had a bad reaction yet, knock on wood. Other than that, they’re well-tolerated.”
Crosby said health officials are doing their best to reach everybody who is positive for COVID-19, been exposed to the virus or is at risk of such.
“I don’t care what part of town they’re in, what the social demographics are - we don’t care,” he said. “We want to treat everybody, and to treat everybody the same.
“We do have a couple of paramedics supplied by some federal government agency that’s helping us during the daytime, and I think they’re helping us out on the weekend. But also, there’s another program that’s helping us be able to get enough people to extend them on the weekends and late into the evenings. We also do free testing at C.E. Roy (Community Center) downtown two days a week.”
For more information, visit www.hattiesburgclinic.com/department/cough-fever-clinic.