MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Health Department does not intend to administer monoclonal antibody infusions.
The treatment, which has emergency-use authorization from the FDA, is a 250 ml intravenous infusion of lab-created proteins intended to boost the immune system of recipients with certain health criteria who have either been exposed to or have tested positive for COVID-19, but do not require hospitalization.
“I believe this is something that is more acute, clinical care that is beyond the purview of health departments, and that’s coming from the largest health department in the state,” Monongalia County Health Officer Lee Smith said when asked about the treatment during Thursday’s board of health meeting.
Smith’s comments come in response to a push in Charleston to make the treatment more accessible by expanding availability to include local health departments and pharmacies.
Smith said the two-hour infusion process involves more equipment and personnel than the health department can provide, particularly when WVU Medicine and Mon Health offer the treatment in Morgantown.
“I don’t believe, at least I have not heard, that people are missing the opportunity. You have a 10-day window (after exposure) in which to receive the monoclonal antibodies. The reason is that after day 10, the adverse drug reactions tend to be more noticeable. So you have a window,” Smith said. “I know of no one who has missed their 10-day window because they can’t get in.”
Further, Smith said he questions reports that the treatment is being offered by the Charleston Kanawha Health Department, calling the claim “disingenuous.”
“It’s not being done by the personnel at Kanawha Charleston. It’s being done through who they contract with, which is the Cabin Creek Federally Qualified Health Care Center, who does all of their clinical services,” Smith said. “Even if it’s done in their building, it’s disingenuous for them to say, ‘We’re doing it here as the health department.’ Good for them if they are, but I think there’s a little bit more to the mechanics of that.”
Smith said he also has doubts about the treatment being administered in pharmacies, as pharmacies cannot administer infusions, meaning the treatment will have to be delivered through four 2.5 ml subcutaneous injections.
“I’m not sure that giving four subcutaneous injections and then monitoring that individual for an hour while their kids are running up and down the aisles of Rite Aid, tearing up the blood pressure machine is going to be a successful thing,” he said. “But some pharmacies have agreed to do it, and more power to them.”