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HMC anti-body clinic mostly treats non-virus patients

Hilo Medical Center has treated dozens of people in its monoclonal antibody treatment clinic since it opened last month.

HMC has given at least 48 doses of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ REGN-COV to COVID-19 positive patients, and one dose to someone who was only exposed to the virus.

“As our numbers are optimistically decreasing, we’ve been able to offer the treatment to individuals who have had close contact to someone who has tested positive,” said Medical Director Dr. Charles Okamura. “I think this is especially crucial to stopping potential outbreaks, whether it be in the classroom, at a large gathering, or the workplace. Most treatments are defensive, but this is one of the few things we can do that will stomp the virus out, if possible.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November issued an emergency use authorization to Regeneron for the use of two antibodies used together to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 by blocking its spread.

Although there was a limited supply of doses when the clinic opened, the low positivity rate has caused fewer people to seek treatment.

“We have a 5% positivity rate on Hawaii Island, which means that there is still a prevalence of COVID on the island,” said HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu. “We do have the supply to treat people and hopefully bring that rate down.”

Those who have been in close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, or those who have tested positive less than 10 days prior and are at a high risk for developing severe COVID-19 symptoms, can make an appointment for the clinic.

HMC suggests that people who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the workplace or classroom, or during a large gathering or travel should make an appointment for treatment.

“Our response from patients has been very good,” said Administrative Services Officer Mari Horike. “The team is taking vital signs before and after treatment, and they are seeing temperatures come down, color come back, and patients are reporting that their energy and oxygen levels are improving.”

Hospitalizations at HMC have declined over the past few weeks, with three patients in the ICU and three patients in the COVID-19 pod.

“I think the community response to the governor’s proclamations, despite the controversy, has been effective in decreasing cases,” Okamura said.

“We did experience a good amount of loss (of life), though,” Cabatu added. “One loss is one too many, especially while we’re in this phase where we can prevent this.”

The antibody clinic is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and a team from FEMA will be running the clinic until Nov. 12.

“The team we received from FEMA has been very excellent, because they see our patients as their patients,” Horike said. “We decided to extend the clinic so we can have an avenue to stop infections or outbreaks as the county starts opening up more.”

Although the antibody treatment has proven to prevent COVID-19 symptoms, it is not a substitute for the vaccine, Okamura said.

Individuals can schedule an appointment for the antibody clinic from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday by calling 808-640-3898.

The clinic is free and open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

COVID-19 positive patients must present their official test lab results.

Email Kelsey Walling at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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