As cases rise, Austin COVID-19 antibody infusion center to reopen

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of State Health Services says it’s planning to open a regional infusion center in the Austin area, based on the number of COVID cases in the area.

The state previously opened a mobile center in east Austin in January, but it was demobilized as the need decreased and local hospitals could handle the infusions on their own, said Texas Department of Emergency Management spokesperson Seth Christensen.

Austin Public Health says we could see the center reopen in the next few days, and although there isn’t an exact location yet, a spokesperson said it will likely be in east Austin again.

Interim APH Director Adrienne Stirrup said they were “glad and grateful” for the state’s help.

“Just over the weekend, we did get support from them for the regional infusion center, and that will be huge for our community,” Stirrup said during a briefing with Travis County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning.

The city says the first center closed in May after treating 1,076 patients to keep them out of the hospital with severe COVID-19 symptoms.

With just two ICU beds now left in Austin’s 11-county health region, they need help administering this therapy once again.

“This is not just like giving a shot of B-12 in the doctor’s office, you can get into your car and drive home. It’s a lot more complicated than that,” said Dr. Charles Lerner, member of the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 task force.

Lerner said the therapy has to be given through an IV.

“The antibody treatment has to be given early. If you’re waiting until you’re sick enough to be in the hospital, which is generally more than a week after you become ill, it’s too late,” he said.

DSHS says just like the first center, doctors will have to refer high-risk COVID-19 patients for an appointment.

“People with organ transplants, people on dialysis, severe diabetics, the very elderly,” Dr. Lerner explained.

DSHS says it’ll be administering the Regeneron drug.

Previously, it had been giving both Regeneron and Bamlanivimab, depending on availability. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has since stopped recommending Bamlanivimab, which was administered mixed with another drug, because it wasn’t fully effective against current variants.

“The virus evolved and changed the active site of the virus, so that the antibody doesn’t really attach to it anymore,” Lerner said.

Christensen said local officials can request to reopen regional infusion centers, and TDEM is seeing an increased use of COVID-19 therapy across the state.

More information about COVID-19 therapeutics can be found on the Texas DSHS website. A spokesperson said the agency will have share more details on the infusion center in the next few days.

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