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Vaccines are Effective Against Omicron, Monoclonal Treatment is Scarce

2 hands making a heart shapeAlthough working in health care has been a stressful and ever-changing situation the past few years, GRHS staff rise above daily challenges to give the best care for others. The staff remains flexible with ongoing changes, anticipating needs, and helping each other to provide the best work environment and heartfelt care for all patients.

Health care facilities and operations designed to provide preventative, urgent, and acute care to patients in their communities cannot sustain the additional volume of COVID patients requesting testing and medical care. It continues to challenge hospitals and clinics’ already strained staffing and limited resources.

With influenza now spreading in the community, it will slowly increase clinic visits and the use of lab testing supplies. Inevitably, some patients do require hospitalization. Despite the flu vaccine not appearing to be a close match to the strains circulating, it still provides more benefit than not having any immunity and is still recommended. Call any of the three Glacial Ridge clinics in Glenwood, Starbuck, and Brooten for an appointment to get your flu vaccine. 

The COVID virus has increased sources of stress for families and disrupted everyday work life and childhood activities. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant and high transmission further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters – the only tool widely available to thwart this virus and its impact on everyone’s health and daily life.

Within one week, Omicron became the predominant COVID variant in Minnesota. While Omicron does not appear to make as many people as sick as Delta, it is far more transmissible. Those who do not get severely ill with COVID still impact overall medical care for everyone due to the increased number of patients seeking testing, clinic care, and monoclonal treatment. Staffing, lab tests, and medical supplies can’t keep pace with the infinitely growing volume of patients expected to hit Minnesota clinics and hospitals by mid-January.

Additionally, even with a lower hospitalization rate, the significantly higher number of cases expected may still result in considerably more hospitalizations of COVID patients than there are currently.

Another uncertainty in health care daily is the availability to obtain medical supplies in high demand. Among others, low supply for necessary items includes oxygen concentrators, everyday supplies needed for patient care, and laboratory testing kits for influenza and COVID. The state allocates medically essential resources based on regional COVID cases and hospitalizations to help with health care equity statewide.

Only One Antibody Treatment is Effective, But Supply is Limited

elderly handsThe antibody treatment, sotrovimab, does help slow the disease progression of the Omicron variant. However, MDH warns hospitals to anticipate a significant scarcity of sotrovimab in the coming weeks relative to demand. U.S. health officials are rationing this monoclonal treatment, allotting it to states based on the highest need.

For patients who would like to get monoclonal antibodies, staff must enter their information into the MNRAP system run by the state. The system prioritizes the highest risk patients to be offered a dose. It identifies the hospital where they can get an appointment because of the limited supply and staffing availability. Not all patients entered into the MNRAP system will be offered the antibody treatment.

Unfortunately, Omicron overpowers the two monoclonal antibody treatment combinations widely used for the Delta variant, making them ineffective. Since Omicron is by far the dominant variant in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends that hospitals suspend the two monoclonal antibody treatments used for Delta by January 3, 2022, because of the lack of efficacy on Omicron. Updates are available on the MDH: Covid-19 therapeutics webpage.

Vaccine Effectiveness and Reason for Boosters

Early findings of Omicron show that prior COVID infection, which generally produces some natural immunity for a time, unfortunately, does not offer protection against the Omicron variant. While no vaccine has ever been 100% effective, Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines provide more protection against severe disease than any prior vaccine for viruses has before. In vaccinated people who contract COVID, the vaccine still protects them against severe illness. Vaccines are recommended for everyone 5 years of age and older. Booster doses are recommended for everyone 16+ years of age.

Vaccine effectiveness at preventing infection decreases over time because the body’s immune response wanes and the vaccine is less effective against changes in COVID variants. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and booster shots to help prevent infection.

Call Glenwood Medical Center’s COVID vaccination line at 320.331.2121 to schedule your booster or if you have not gotten the vaccine yet but would like to get it. Pediatric doses are available for children aged 5-11.

 

* Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 situation and continued scientific understanding of Omicron, guidelines and recommendations may have changed since the posting date.

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