KAWARTHA LAKES-The Ontario government says it is worried about a “tsunami” of Omicron cases while failing to increase access to early COVID treatments that could keep people out of the hospital.
Instead of rolling out monoclonal antibodies across the province, officials announced a partnership with St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton to pilot a dedicated COVID-19 Monoclonal Antibody Therapy in an outpatient setting for the Hamilton community in October 2021. Since that time 60 patients have received this life saving, hospital saving treatment.
“St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s monoclonal antibody therapy (MAB) clinic has administered over 60 treatments to patients from various parts of southern Ontario. Most of our patients report a significant improvement within 48 hours of treatment and have communicated an overall positive experience.” said Christine Cho, Manager Public Affairs, St Joes Hamilton.
Dr Zain Chagla says “Our stock is through provincial / federal stockpile but we’ve been assured we can continue to give as many as we need for now.”
Initial studies show that COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy reduces hospitalization by 71% and reduces death by 70% in high-risk COVID-positive patients according to St Joes.
The pilot program provides treatment for outpatients with COVID-19, who are at high-risk of progression to severe illness. While officials still say the first line of defense against COVID-19 is vaccination, this treatment would help to address the growing number of hospitalizations in high-risk individuals according to officials.
“Our goal is to reach the most high-risk COVID positive patients, to prevent them from getting so sick that they end up hospitalized or dying.” says Dr. Zain Chagla, Infectious Disease Specialist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. “This pilot project will assist researchers in determining its impact and at the same time free up beds in our hospitals so we can continue to treat patients with other ailments.”
A monoclonal antibody is a type of protein that attaches to the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus and prevents the virus from entering and infecting healthy cells within the body. This therapy may help reduce the risk of progressing from mild or moderate COVID-19 to severe infection that requires hospitalization for high-risk individuals.
The Ontario government said it would be expanding the program but has yet to do so.
“Ontario Health and the ministry are currently working on a program for broader implementation across the province that considers equity of distribution to where the products can be used with the greatest effect. The program is expected to expand to six additional hospitals sites over the coming days.” Anna Miller Senior Communications Advisor / Team Lead (A) Communications Division Ministry of Health told Kawartha 411 News.
Since then, given the urgent situation, we have not had a response as to when and where this additional capacity will be rolled out. There was no mention of it in an announcement on additional restrictions on Monday.
The province says it has requested 18,000 additional doses of Sotrovimab from Public Health Agency of Canada.
“Due to global demand of monoclonal antibody (mAbs) products, the federal government, through the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), has been procuring and paying for these therapies and allocating them to provinces and territories based on COVID-19 indicators.” said Miller.
The province closed schools, restaurants and gyms to “save the hospital system” on January 3,2022.