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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Missouri Says Coronavirus Vaccinations Are Coming In January, Kansas City Patients Get New Treatment

A patient in California receives a treatment designed to provide antibody immunity to SARS-CoV2 virus. Officials at KU announced today they will be using a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 patients at high-risk of developing severe symptoms.
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A patient in California receives a treatment designed to provide antibody immunity to SARS-CoV2 virus. Officials at KU announced today they will be using a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 patients at high-risk of developing severe symptoms.

This story was updated at 4:30 p.m.

Missouri health officials announced Thursday that the state will soon receive more of the coronavirus vaccine than expected, while doctors in Kansas City said they are seeking extra doses of a treatment in an effort to slow the rate of hospitalizations.

Dr. Randall Williams, director of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state learned it will receive an additional 64,000 doses, for a total of 220,000, that will help the state prioritize long-term care residents.

“Thanks to this new allotment we will start vaccinating, and finish vaccinating we think, by mid-January, all our long-term care facility and staff, and think we’re on track to vaccinate all our 300,000 health care workers by the end of January," he said.

There will be 21 locations distributing the vaccine throughout the state, Williams said. The first set of 51,000 doses is expected to be in Missouri on December 15, he said.

Meanwhile, the University of Kansas Health System announced Thursday that it is seeking more doses of an antibody treatment used to fight COVID-19 in hopes it will slow the rate of hospitalizations in the area.

The hospital began administering its first doses of the monoclonal antibody therapy called "bamlanivimab" last month afterthe FDA approved its use to shorten the length and severity of coronavirus cases.

Shannon Schroeder, KU’s infusion therapy clinic manager, has already administered the treatment to 15 patients and just received a shipment of 200 more doses. She said she anticipates needing even more as cases continue to go up across the region, and the hospital is appealing to the state for more doses.

“A lot of these patients when they come in, they're wondering, what number am I, am I number two, number three? I'm sure it's disheartening to get that news that you're positive for COVID," Schroeder said. "But if on that same phone call you hear 'We've got this treatment available, that you qualify, would you like to come in and get it?'”

Schroeder said so far all of the patients that have met the criteria have accepted the treatment, but she hasn’t yet checked in with them to gauge their progress.

Bamlanivimab is made by Eli Lilly and was approved for emergency use last month. It's similar to a medication given to President Trump when he was positive for COVID-19, but that one is made by Regeneron and is still under review at the FDA.

The Eli Lilly product is being given to patients with mild to moderate illness but aren't sick enough to be hospitalized or to keep them out of the hospital.

KU officials announced at the daily briefing Thursday that 89 of its patients have active COVID-19 cases, of which 46 are in the intensive care unit and 28 are on ventilators. That's a slight drop from last week’s record high number of hospitalizations, but the numbers still show a high number of patients in the intensive care unit.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease expert at the University of Kansas Health System, said he hopes this will help free up more beds in the ICU. When there's a high number of patients in the ICU, doctors don't get to do the close care that's needed, he said.

"It's constant vigilance which allows you to steer things back into the right direction so it's really important that we try not to overwhelm the ICU,” Hawkinson said.

Also Thursday, Missouri reported that 98 people died of the coronavirus in the last seven days, an uptick from the previous day. According to the state's dashboard, 4,102 Missouri residents have died of COVID-19. In Kansas, there have been a total 1,560 deaths, according to a state website.

Hawkinson said the number of patients that will be able to receive the antibody treatment will be limited by the amount of doses sent to the hospital. There have only been 15 infusions so far, but Hawkinson said he anticipates more patients will fit the criteria as positive case numbers continue to rise.

Schroeder said the infusion clinic is now working on expanding its space to allow more patients in at once. Her team has transformed an old physical therapy gym in their building into a new infusion space that can be used to treat three more patients.

“We're hoping by Monday or Tuesday of next week to be able to run eight or nine patients a day or two right now we're only able to do about three,” said Schroeder.

Schroeder said the treatment will not act as replacement for the vaccine since they don’t have near enough does to keep up with the rising rate of COVID-19 cases in the area.

In the nine-county Kansas City area, the daily positive case rate has stayed above 1,000 since the beginning of November, according to the Kansas City Region COVID-19 Data Hub.

“We have 200 doses right now. We don't even know when our next shipment is going to come so we would rapidly be overwhelmed by that. So there's no way we could do that,” said Schroeder.

While the vaccine’s first round of doses will be limited to first responders, healthcare workers, and those at highest risk, Schroeder said the antibody infusion is more accessible to the general public. She encourages those who think they may be a candidate for the treatment to contact their primary physician.

St. Louis Public Radio’s statehouse reporter Jaclyn Driscoll contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 KCUR 89.3

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