MOULTRIE, Ga. — A well-regarded COVID-19 treatment will no longer be available at Colquitt Regional Medical Center due to changes in how the federal government will distribute it.
“Effective tomorrow, Colquitt Regional Medical Center will be temporarily closing its COVID-19 Infusion Center,” the hospital said in a social media post Wednesday evening. “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is changing the distribution process for monoclonal antibody treatments, and at this time, we are uncertain when we will be receiving additional doses of this therapy.”
Colquitt Regional Medical Center has seen significant success from the antibody infusion, hospital officials have said.
“Since they became available, monoclonal antibody infusions have played a vital role in lessening patients' symptoms and preventing hospitalization,” the hospital’s social media post said. “We deeply regret that we are unable to provide patients with this therapy, and will post updates when additional infusions are received. It is our desire to open our COVID-19 Infusion Center back up as soon as possible.”
Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic, laboratory-created antibodies, according to a Wednesday press release from the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“They help people at high risk for severe COVID illness, individuals who have recently tested positive (within 10 days) for the virus, or people who are close contacts of persons who have tested positive for COVID,” the DPH release said. “They do not teach a patient’s body how to create its own antibodies.”
The DPH said the decision announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is the result of supply shortages and extraordinary demand for the treatments across the country, particularly due to the rapid spread of the delta variant. Health care providers will no longer be able to order the treatments directly.
“HHS will determine each state’s weekly allocation of monoclonal antibody products based on use and the number of new COVID cases,” DPH said. “The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) will identify which sites in the state will receive the product and the amount each site receives. Healthcare providers must record their administration of the products in order to be eligible to receive additional shipments.”
DPH will work to provide monoclonal antibody treatments quickly and equitably to as many Georgia providers as possible, the department promised in the release. It will also address the backlog of requests previously made to HHS, which DPH said it was not made aware of until Tuesday.
The Department of Public Health emphasized that the antibody treatment is not a replacement for COVID-19 vaccination, which is currently much easier to access for those who qualify.
“We have safe and highly effective vaccines to protect against COVID-19. It is much easier to get a vaccine than risk becoming seriously ill with life threatening complications,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Monoclonal antibodies are in short supply and high demand and hospital beds are full. What Georgia does have is enough vaccine for all Georgians aged 12 and over to be vaccinated.”
Colquitt Regional Medical Center urges anyone who needs assistance managing COVID-19 symptoms to contact your primary care physician or call the hospital’s COVID-19 hotline at (229) 891-9380. If you need emergency medical care, please call 911 or visit the Emergency Department.