Dr. Rai on how omicron is impacting COVID-19 treatments

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 9:54 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Monoclonal antibody treatments are in short supply when it comes to the omicron variant.

“We have one that works OK against omicron, but it’s in very short supply,” says Dr. Ashok Rai, Prevea President and CEO.

Dr. Rai discussed the impact omicron is having on our healthcare system and other industries during a visit to Action 2 News This Morning.

HOSPITALIZATIONS

“We’re still in that same situation we were pre-holiday, which is extremely busy. We have patients that are leaving the hospital, but just as quickly, patients are coming in, not all COVID obviously, but COVID still taking a big chunk of our ICU beds and floor beds, so it’s very stressful right now in our hospital situation, especially with new infections happening every day.”

TESTING

“Testing right now locally, and I think there’s a lot of news nationally, people are showing pictures of long lines, it’s different everywhere right now.

“Here, I just went online and we still have availability of testing here locally, which is a good thing. We continue to try to ramp that up, that’s why we didn’t go with a very large testing site, and instead have four different sites and I think every healthcare organization is doing it differently, that’s just how we’re doing it to try and get as much testing our there as possible.

“There’s still availability of home testing, it’s harder to get these days, we hear we’re going to get more from the federal government, that might be a couple weeks too late, so it’s still very important that if you have symptoms, you’re getting tested, you’re signing up for a test right away, and if you’ve been exposed to somebody with COVID-19, which likely now is going to be the Omicron variant, so within those 3 days it’s a good idea to get tested.”

COVID-19 TREATMENT PILLS

“So you have the Merck pill, which is supposedly heading to pharmacies soon, the Pfizer pill hopefully coming in a week or two, both of these pills work very differently than the monoclonal antibodies that we have had, they have to be taken very early, in the course of the disease, so that’s why testing is so important. Hopefully in like three days of symptoms starting, for one of those pills, and the availability is going to be very low, and that’s the unfortunate part.

“We’re going to have so many people infected with omicron, we already do, and that number is just going to keep going up, up, and up – for high risk patients we want to get them the pill to prevent hospitalization, especially for those that are unvaccinated, so it’s going to be kind of tricky right now, how to get a prescription to a patient who is positive, and how to get that prescription filled ‚so we have a lot of news coming here within the next week , that will be good news but right now we’re just waiting.”

WHAT TREATMENTS DO NOT WORK?

“Traditionally we’ve talked about, once you’ve turned positive, it’s really important to talk to your healthcare provider, to get monoclonal antibody, that was the infusions that we were doing for COVID-19, and they worked great for every variant but omicron.

“Unfortunately the ones that we have in large supply here locally have no been put on the shelf because they don’t work with omicron and that is what we would consider the most dominant variant right now. We have one that works OK against omicron, but it’s in very short supply. We used to have hundreds and hundreds of doses of the other monoclonal antibody; we might have dozens of the one that does work. It’s in short supply across the country but here locally, especially. It’s going to be used for those who are extremely high risk, those that are advanced aged, immune compromised for one reason or another, the unvaccinated to try to prevent them from having a serious complication or an admission. So we have lost a really big part of our toolbelt with omicron. Hopefully the oral medications will replace that, but they aren’t happening fast enough. That’s our biggest issue right now.”

CDC GUIDELINES FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS

“With omicron affecting so many people and infecting so many people, we’re worried about healthcare workers being in short supply. So the CDC wanted to reduce the isolation guidelines. Isolation means you’re positive, quarantine means you’ve been exposed. For those that need to isolate and you’re a healthcare worker, they’ve taken that from 10 days to 7 days. Every healthcare organization is going to interpret that differently. For us, we want to make sure people are safe. We want to make sure those people don’t have symptoms, that they’ve been vaccinated and they’re willing to come back to work in that under-10-day time period. Those are all things that need to be taken into account that the CDC policy generally doesn’t take into account, but I think it’s something we’re going to see a lot of industries ask for, obviously healthcare workers are very important and need to be there to treat people. We saw the problems with airlines this weekend and other industries because omicron’s just going to affect so many people. It’s going to hurt a lot of our infrastructure.

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