COVID-19 infusion therapy to roll out in east Austin; leaders say area currently lacks resources
AUSTIN (KXAN) – “It was devastating, heartbreaking,” said Paul Saldaña, a member of the Austin Latino Coalition whose uncle was retired last week. There was another COVID-19 victim in his community.
He is one of roughly 70 coalition volunteers who have tried to bring more personal protective equipment, public education, and COVID-19 testing to Hispanic and Latin American communities in Austin.
“One of the things we learned at the beginning of this process is that, in particular, many low-income minority people have had difficulty accessing COVID tests for various reasons,” Saldaña said.
According to Austin’s COVID-19 dashboard, almost half of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are Spanish people.
Many of them, Saldaña says, live in east Austin, where he says resources have been limited.
RELATED: Austin Infusion Center Opens This Week To Help Treat COVID-19 Patients
This is one of the reasons a COVID-19 antibody therapy center is opening in this area on Wednesday.
“The idea is to help people in underserved areas,” said Chance Karshens, regional coordinator for the Texas Emergency Medical Taskforce.
The facility is located in the parking lot of the CommUnity Care clinic in the Montopolis district.
City and county leaders are working with the Texas Division of Emergency Management to deliver a one-hour blood infusion to COVID-19 patients who qualify for them. Karshens says patients will be monitored after the infusion, so some will stay in the mobile location for up to three hours.
The aim is to minimize the symptoms of high-risk patients and reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
He says the trailer will treat about 20 patients on the first day, rising to 30 or 40 per day. There are nine children’s beds in each trailer.
Karshen says drugs come from local hospitals and can be either Regeneron or Bamlanivimab.
“It really depends on what the inventory is because we rely on several hospitals across the state to allow us to do this. Depending on what they have and what they are using, we will use it,” he said. “It’s the same therapy, the basic concept is the same, it’s just a matter of the different ways they mix into the IV to be injected into the patient.”
Karshen says all employees – doctors, nurses, and technicians – will be hired by a contractor.
“They all have the nurses, the doctors, everything it takes to run a small field hospital like this,” he said.
Saldaña says while the treatment will be beneficial to the community, he still has concerns.
“If the vaccine is available, why don’t we make this vaccine available in the community? Why should our community be treated as a second class citizen and therefore only be given alternatives when the vaccine is available to everyone else? ”
Saldaña also says that basic problems remain, such as a lack of communication and public education for Spanish speakers or those without internet access.
Austin Public Health’s Stephanie Hayden currently says the county does not have enough vaccines to meet demand. The agency also says they have consistently worked with minority communities and will continue to do so.
Austin Public Health currently only offers Phase 1A COVID-19 vaccines
“Although we can’t regulate how the other vendors prioritize their vaccine (similar to other drugs), we (APH) know what to do with ours (when / when we get it from the state). We have strategically provided families in areas like East Austin and Del Valle with family programs, WIC, HIV testing, TB monitoring, health screening and nutrition programs, and vaccines such as flu shots, ”wrote a spokesman for KXAN.
Back in October, she pointed out that APH was using areas in east Austin to distribute the flu vaccine and practicing for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. “We have a plan, we just need the vaccine. The amount of vaccine determines what space we use. ”
Hayden also highlighted eliminating inequalities during the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, saying APH was working on a vaccine distribution plan designed to involve hard-hit, low-income and minority communities.
“The entire state is on the move,” the provisional health agency says, record number of COVID-19 recordings on Tuesday