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Smith County’s antibody infusion center aims to keep COVID-19 patients out of hospital

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 6:58 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2021 at 8:20 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County is home to the state’s latest antibody infusion center. The treatment aims to keep COVID-19 patients out of the hospital, and the only thing needed is a doctor’s referral.

“It will be used to treat certain high-risk patients as soon as possible after a positive COVID test,” said Dr. Paul McGaha, Smith County Health Authority.

McGaha said beginning Tuesday, Aug. 31, eligible patients with a doctor’s referral can begin receiving an IV infusion of Regeneron’s REGEN-COV at the infusion center, located inside of UT Health’s North Campus on U.S. Highway 271 in Tyler.

“Patients have been found to have a 70% or greater decrease in hospitalization or death, so that’s very good data that we’re seeing related to this,” McGaha said.

McGaha said while several East Texas healthcare providers are already giving the infusions, this center is run by the state in partnership with local officials. The treatments they offer come at no cost to the patient and take about two hours from start to finish.

“It’s an opportunity for us to try to relieve some of the pressure on our hospital systems to try to keep people from being hospitalized -- not only to reduce their symptoms to keep them safe and healthy, but to keep our emergency rooms and our ICU beds useful only for those folks who absolutely need them,” said Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran.

Moran said they chose the UT Health North campus because it’s easily accessible to several East Texas counties, located just miles away from I-20.

The center has about 20 chairs and will be able to do up to 60 infusions each day, according to McGaha. He added it’s important for patients to be treated in the early stages of illness.

“The sooner you can get in after testing positive, the better,” he said. “Three days is good, and even up to 10 days after symptoms begin still means you’re eligible.”

And while these treatments are proving to be successful in preventing severe illness, McGaha said vaccination remains a person’s best defense against the worst of COVID-19.

“Monoclonal therapy does not replace our strong emphasis on vaccination,” McGaha said. “This therapy lasts for a short time and then goes away. It’s very effective, but vaccination causes an individual to develop long-term immunity. So we still want to emphasize vaccination.”

Eligible COVID-19 patients will need a form filled out by their doctor, which will act as a prescription for the infusion. To ensure that the facility is utilized for patients who meet the treatment qualification standards for this type of treatment, a referral is required and walk-in patients cannot be seen. If you do not have a general practitioner, please call the Infusion Center at 903-877-7119 for more information.

The therapy is not authorized for patients who:

  • Have been hospitalized due to COVID-19;
  • Require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19; or
  • Require an increase in baseline oxygen flow rate due to COVID-19 in those on chronic oxygen therapy due to underlying non-COVID-19-related comorbidity.

The local infusion center can be reached at 903-877-7119 or at infusioncenter@smith-county.com

There is a statewide infusion center hotline at 1-800-742-5990 or click here to find out which infusion center is nearest you.

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