Supply of Bexar County’s COVID-19 therapies running low, officials say

Supply of therapies like remdesivir, monoclonal antibodies, and oral antivirals is not meeting the demand.

SAN ANTONIO – Therapies to treat COVID-19 are in short supply in Bexar County.

“There’s not enough of it right now, and most places are waiting on another shipment to have enough to treat people,” said Dr. Jan Patterson, professor and infectious disease physician at UT Health San Antonio.

Yet another potentially detrimental shortage, COVID-19 therapies are not readily available when and where they need to be.

Last week, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services secretary asking for help in managing and distributing remdesivir, which is in short supply. So far, according to Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council, they’ve gotten no response.

“We’re, you know, limiting it to just hospitalized patients right now. Even though the outpatient use has been shown to be beneficial, we just don’t have enough right now in our system,” Patterson said.

Remdesivir isn’t the only therapy running low.

“Where the scarcity is right now is in the monoclonal,” said Dr. Jason Bowling, an epidemiologist with University Health.

Bowling says it’s concerning because monoclonal antibody treatments are also scarce since the treatment could keep people from getting so sick that they need to be hospitalized.

“If we can keep people out of the hospital, that’s better for the person, right? And it’s also better for the health care systems,” Bowling said.

Oral antiviral treatments by Merck and Pfizer need to be prescribed. They’re good options because they’re taken at home at the onset of symptoms, and you don’t need an IV or to be monitored by your doctor, physicians say.

“There are some courses available in the San Antonio area, but it’s a very limited number,” Bowling said.

A Department of Health and Human Services site allows doctors around the country to actively monitor how much COVID therapy is available in their area. It shows numbers for Astra Zeneca’s monoclonal antibody treatment, as well as Pfizer and Merck’s pills.

The numbers available pale compared to the number of people dealing with COVID-19.

“We have to make sure that we’re targeting the highest risk patients,” Patterson said.

It forces hard decisions for doctors, but they’re at the mercy of government allocation.

Both doctors reiterated the importance of vaccines, especially with the limited availability of COVID-19 treatments.

The vaccines can prevent severe symptoms and allow the COVID-19 medications to be used for those who really need them.

About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.