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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Due to updated guidance from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) COVID-19 Treatment Panel, and further compounded by a national shortage in supply of effective monoclonal antibody therapies, Ballad Health is updating its protocols for use of this treatment.

The updated guidance from NIH is intended to ensure those most at risk are able to receive this potentially life-saving treatment.

MAB therapies that were administered for previous novel coronavirus (COVID-19) strains like the delta variant have been proven to be ineffective against the omicron variant, which is now the dominant strain in our region and across the nation.

The limited number of MAB therapies that are effective against the omicron variant are in short supply across the nation. With the highly contagious omicron variant circulating in our region, requests for these therapies at Ballad Health facilities have far outpaced the supply made available to Ballad Health. Ballad Health continues to order additional supply, although at present additional supply is very limited.

Per guidance from NIH’s COVID-19 Treatment Panel, relevant MAB therapies will be prioritized for patients who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 infections because of factors like age, chronic medical conditions, immunocompromised, vaccination status, etc.

While MAB therapies were an early successful treatment for patients who are vulnerable to severe COVID-19 illness, patients now have access to two COVID-19 antiviral pills manufactured by Pfizer and Merck recently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Patients who are sick with COVID-19 but don’t qualify for MAB therapy can ask their healthcare provider if they qualify for other COVID-19 therapeutics such as these antiviral pills.

Ballad Health continues to advocate for vaccination and booster shots for all who are eligible. Previously, those who chose not to vaccinate had a readily available supply of monoclonal antibodies in the event they were affected by the virus and had severe symptoms. With the supply of effective monoclonal antibodies being limited, or exhausted, vaccination becomes the best way to minimize the effect of the virus in the likely event a person is exposed. This virus is highly contagious, and the likelihood of exposure is very high, even if you are vaccinated. Ballad continues to see largely mild symptoms among people who are vaccinated. Until the supply of monoclonal antibodies becomes more readily available, Ballad Health is concerned that hospitalizations, and possibly deaths, will increase as a result of this shortage combined with low vaccination rates. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and have proven to greatly reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Everyone 5 years of age or older is now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, and everyone ages 18 and older is eligible for a booster shot.