Oral antivirals could tackle COVID cases in Mississippi

Published 10:33 am Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Although COVID cases are declining, health experts say easing precautions is not the best course of action to take in the face of this downturn.

On Monday, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 4,719 more cases of COVID-19 in the state from Feb. 11-13, almost 4 times less than the previous week’s number of 16,595 for Feb. 4-6. Cities, schools and businesses may have relaxed their mandates but State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs says the numbers are still too high for comfort.

“Although we’re seeing a decline in the number of COVID cases and we’re seeing a decline in the number of hospitalizations, we’re still recording thousands of cases every day — every week— and we’ll continue to see more illness and, unfortunately, deaths,” said Dobbs.

The United States’s number of hospitalizations have surpassed the previous winter’s peak with over 16,000 hospitalizations per day from Dec. 29, 2021 to Jan. 24, 2022. 

Lafayette County’s COVID cases and deaths peaked similarly during roughly the same period with a peak of 985 cases and 485 deaths during the week of Jan. 22 and Jan. 29, respectively.

Dobbs says the best way to counteract the worst of COVID is through the under-utilized oral antivirals.

“If we think about how well we did with the monoclonal antibodies back during the Delta surge, remember monoclonal antibodies have been around for a while and it took us a long time to really embrace it,” he said. “Mississippi was really the leader in using these effective treatments for COVID. Now we have a new generation of treatments that are available to us that we want to make sure people know about or have access to them.”

Oral antivirals Paxlovid and Molnupiravir and monoclonal antibody treatment Sotrovimab currently available to Mississippians for COVID treatment. Mississippi was allocated 2,680 of Paxlovid with only 2,010 treatment courses set up in the city. For Molnupiravir, 10,944 were allocated with 10,154 treatment courses available.

Paxlovid is a tablet antiviral pill that will treat people in five days of illness and is highly effective against Omicron.

“It is very effective but it has numerous drug interactions, so people on other medications you have to be careful of in case it interacts with medication and requires a significant consultation with a physician or with your practitioner,” said Dobbs. 

Molnuprivar is less effective than Paxlovid but it has less interactions with an individual’s medications.

The Omicron variant is usually not susceptible to the monoclonal antibodies but Sotrovimab is one antibody that can fight against this version of the virus. In addition to Sotrovimab, physicians are introducing another antibody called Evusheld, which protects high-risk patients with weakend immune systems. According to Dobbs, Evusheld is meant for patients who are likely not to respond to COVID 

However, Mississippi does not have much of the antibody treatment available to the public.  The state was allocated 4,214 Sotrovimab monoclonal antibodies with 347 treatment courses available and a little less than 4,000 doses of Evusheld was allocated to the state with only 135 doses used.

“This is something we’re working on hoping all the appropriate doctors know that this is available and also primary care doctors know that this is available for their patients so they can have them referred for this powerful preventive medication,” said Dobbs.

MSDH has set up a treatment locator to find where patients can receive their treatment. TO find where you can schedule antiviral or monoclonal antibody treatment, visit msdh.ms.gov/treatment.