June 27, 2022

Kirksville, MO 6/27/22 – The United States is averaging roughly 350 deaths from COVID-19 daily as the Omicron variant and subvariants continue to spread. Cases are rising across the country, including in Adair County. For many people who become infected – particularly those who are vaccinated and boosted – symptoms may be mild. But for those at greater risk for serious disease, which includes those ages 65 and older and those with comorbidities such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and immunosuppressive disorders, there are therapeutic options that may lower the risk of severe disease and death after testing positive.

Valena Fiscus, DO, MPH, is the medical director for the Adair County Health Department. Dr. Fiscus said that there are two major types of outpatient treatment for COVID-19 infected individuals at risk for severe or deadly disease: monoclonal antibodies and antivirals.

“Monoclonal antibodies are certain proteins that can enhance or mimic the body’s immune response to viral attacks or bind certain targets on the virus to inhibit their processes from resulting in severe disease,” Dr. Fiscus said.

“There is one monoclonal antibody infusion call babtelovimab which can be used to treat mild to moderate COVID-19, including the current variants. However, this is not currently available in our area,” Dr. Fiscus said. “Regeneron, Bamlamivimab and sotrovimab have shown to have reduced effectiveness for treatment of the Omicron variants, so these are no longer recommended or available at all.”

“Antivirals are medications that inhibit specific processes within the virus itself, reducing how well it can replicate,” said Dr. Fiscus. “Antivirals are common medications used to treat viruses such as herpes, flu, HIV, and shingles.”

“There are two antiviral medications currently available to treat COVID-19 that have demonstrated effectiveness against the Omicron variants. Both are pills that your doctor can prescribe if you meet certain criteria for use. To be effective, both also need to be started within five days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms,” Dr. Fiscus said.

Paxlovid, made by Pfizer, is more than 90% effective in reducing the risk of progressing to severe COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization. It does, however, have dangerous interactions with certain medications and patients must have a certain level of kidney function in order to use Paxlovid.

Molnupiravir is another antiviral proven effective against COVID-19. Although it is less effective than Paxlovid for reducing progression to severe disease or hospitalization, it has fewer drug interactions and no kidney function restrictions for use.

“If you are at high risk for severe disease and test positive for COVID-19, contact your doctor to see if you are a candidate for these treatments,” said Dr. Fiscus. “Your doctor will need to make sure you can take any medication safely.”

“While there are treatments available for COVID-19, we do still recommend preventing severe illness or hospitalization by being vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19,” Dr. Fiscus said. “If you have not been vaccinated or boosted, you can get them at most local pharmacies or call the Adair County Health Department to schedule your shot.”

The Adair County Health Department administers the Pfizer vaccine to those ages 12 and older on Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m., and to those ages 5 through 11 on Thursdays from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Beginning Thursday, June 30, the Health Department is administering the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 6 months to 4 years old from 9 to 11 a.m. To schedule an appointment for the appropriate dose of vaccine or booster, call the Adair County Health Department at 660-665-8491.