BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Public Health held its first public briefing in over a month as COVID-19 cases are rising sharply as the new year begins.
ADPH Officer Scott Harris says that the Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire, and while the number of people in intensive care units quadrupled in that time span, the only known monoclonal treatment is hardly available.
Dr. Harris says they are seeing infection numbers that they haven’t seen since the pandemic began two years ago. But the supply for the only known antibody treatment known to be effective against Omicron is in very short supply.
“Now that we have Omicron we actually only have one monoclonal product now that’s effective for this variant, for the Omicron variant,” said Harris.
The only treatment known to work now is called Sotrovimab. It’s used for people that are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The problem is that Alabama is not getting nearly enough to treat the massive number of infections that have raged through the state in just the past week.
“We’ve had sometimes 8,000 cases in a single day of COVID infections but we’re getting about 400 doses of this medication per week. Not nearly enough to go around. We certainly hope that the manufacturer will figure out how to make more of it,” Harris added.
Doctors are warning people who are infected to not count on the monoclonal antibody treatment being readily available as the COVID infection rate continues to grow.
“If we don’t have Sotrovimab as an effective agent in adequate quantities, as these numbers continue to rise we’re going to be in a situation where some people who could have avoided hospitalization are going to end up being hospitalized. That is just the way you don’t want this to go,” said Don Williamson CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association.
Doctors say that less than 50% of the population in Alabama remains unvaccinated. Dr. Harris says while doctors are still learning about the Omicron variant, they do know that it has been more contagious than expected.