Parson extends contract for COVID-19 antibody treatment sites, vaccinations still a priority

Parson extends contract for COVID-19 antibody treatment sites, vaccinations still a priority

September 27, 2021 0 By Joe Mueller

Republican Gov. Mike Parson has granted a 30-day extension for six state-contracted monoclonal antibody treatment sites for treating people with early symptoms or a recent diagnosis of COVID-19.

Parson announced on Aug. 11 a commitment of $15 million in funding for five to eight infusion sites located near the state’s larger population centers for 30 days. On Aug. 25, the department of health and senior services (DHSS) activated a state contract with SLSCO Ltd. of Galveston, Texas, to establish and run sites in Jackson, Pettis, Scott Butler and Jefferson counties. A site in the city of St. Louis was added.

From the start of the 2022 fiscal year on July 1 until Tuesday, the state paid $4.9 million to SLSCO for professional medical services, according to the Missouri accountability portal. The project is being funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“This extension is very helpful,” said Dave Dillon, a spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association. “However, we still must build on our vaccination rates. Prevention is better than care after the fact.”

About 47% of Missouri’s 6.1 million people are fully vaccinated; 54% received one dose, ranking the state 41st of 50 states and U.S. territories.

Monoclonal antibody treatments infuse proteins to help fight off COVID-19 and reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization. The antibodies mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses. It attacks the virus and reduces its ability to spread throughout the body.

The state reported 1,732 patients have been treated, free of charge, with the monoclonal antibody infusions through the sites. High-risk people with a recent COVID-19 diagnosis are encouraged to contact their health care provider to review treatment options. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the treatment for people who are at high risk for serious COVID-19 to recover faster and reduce the likelihood of long hospitalization.

“Monoclonal antibody treatments have been successful for many COVID-19 patients and have allowed us to lessen the strain on Missouri’s health care systems,” Parson said in a statement. “However, this treatment is not a replacement for the vaccine. Encouraging more vaccination is still the most effective path for us to move past COVID-19.”

DHSS data show the seven-day average of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Missouri is at 1,815, down from 2,417 on Aug. 20; intensive care patients is at 476, down from 687 on Aug. 25. Since the pandemic began last year, more than 11,290 Missourians died of the disease.

“Monoclonal antibodies have been essential treatments to avoid hospitalizations during the surge,” Dillon said. “When patients present at a hospital and aren’t ill enough to need hospitalization – but are suffering from COVID-19 that could progress to illness requiring hospitalization – monoclonal antibodies are effective treatment. They don’t substitute for vaccination, but they provide a powerful tool in our efforts to reduce illness, hospitalization and mortality.”

A media release posted in February on the SLSCO Ltd. website announced the creation of SLS Health, a company dedicated to providing global emergency health care response. The release said the company provided comprehensive COVID-19 sheltering and medical services throughout the nation, including New York, Massachusetts, Florida and Texas.

Media outlets reported other government contracts awarded to SLSCO:

  • $145 million in 2018 with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Army Corps of Engineers to build a six-mile piece of a border-levee wall system along the Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas;
  • $166.8 million in 2018 to construct six miles of a border wall near McAllen, Texas;
  • $61.4 million in April, 2020 with the U.S. Army for modification of wall construction along the southern border of the U.S.;
  • $250 million in April, 2020 to build emergency hospitals at the National Tennis Center in New York and at a cruise ship terminal in Brooklyn.

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