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Monday, Dec. 14, 2020

One Dose at a Time


Vaccinations offer comfort

The frontlines of the pandemic look different now, 10 months into the COVID-19 battle. In this season of giving and joy, there’s comfort in knowing that a glimmer of returning to some sort of normalcy is so close. For months, the question of when a vaccine will be ready riddled conversations. With just a few weeks left in 2020, the dose of hope humanity is counting on, in vaccine form, is being received by health systems across the nation.

COVID-19 vaccines are receiving emergency use authorization by the FDA, and so begins the important task to vaccinate millions of willing participants across the nation. Teams of clinical experts across the nation have reviewed the safety and efficacy of these drugs to provide as much information as possible to those having to decide early to take the vaccine. Concerning vaccine development speed, clinical experts are confident vaccine clinical trial protocols and methods used during the process were appropriate and adequately conducted. As prioritized by federal mandate, health systems nationwide focus on managing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccine internally first.

“Vaccines help eradicate diseases, and this is one of the first steps to get this disease under control. We are very excited to offer this for our associates and will hopefully be able to roll this out to our clinics and urgent cares for the general public when appropriate,” said Steen Trawick, M.D., chief executive officer and chief medical officer, CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System.

Available to those serving on the frontlines and at greater risk for exposure first and then to other health-care workers, receiving the vaccine isn’t mandatory. For those comfortable and ready to be vaccinated, it is given in two doses: the initial injection and a booster is given 21- 28 days later. It is vital to receive BOTH vaccinations. Side effects are reported to be comparable to a flu shot, such as redness and pain around the injection site and a lowgrade fever. A plan is in place once supply is made available for others, such as high-risk patients and essential community workers.

“The best way to treat something is to prevent it from ever happening. We believe this vaccine is key to dramatically reducing the curve; we are hoping that we can really start to end this pandemic,” said David Benner, vice president, Clinical Ancillary Services, Division of Clinical Excellence, CHRISTUS Health.

Another game-changing treatment helping COVID-19 patients in Shreveport- Bossier is monoclonal antibody therapy, which also received authorization for emergency use by the FDA. This treatment is given to those at greater risk for hospitalization. Bamlanivimab and REGN-COV2 are the newest antibody cocktails. The monoclonal antibodies’ proteins, created in a lab, work by mimicking the immune system’s ability to fight off the virus.

The therapy is reserved for patients at increased risk for severe illness with any of the following underlying medical conditions: BMI greater than 35, chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, immunosuppressive disease, those receiving immunosuppressive treatment/ therapy, age over 65, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and chronic lung/ respiratory disease.

It is important to be evaluated by a physician or at an urgent care clinic at the first sign of symptoms. Results in clinical trials indicate the monoclonal antibody therapy is beneficial when given early before a patient’s immune system has mounted an antibody response. The therapy is given intravenously and requires a patient to be monitored after the infusion.

The hard work and dedication of our health-care heroes are evident in the continued fight against COVID-19. The most advanced treatments can only do so much in this battle. Medical experts stress the need to remain vigilant during this holiday season.

“We have to do the basics, the commonsense things,” said Dr. Trawick.

Mask up, social distance and practice good hand hygiene. Know the risks associated with celebrating the season and attending holiday parties. If you need more information, the CDC guidelines are a great resource. However you choose to celebrate, take care of yourself. The holidays are already stressful without factoring in a pandemic. COVID fatigue can’t be an excuse NOT to finish the fight strong.


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