Territory now in Phase 1C of vaccine rollout

Pfc. Shaniah Edwards prepares to administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Friday to soldiers and airmen at the V.I. National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters on St. Croix.

The territory has entered “Phase 1C” of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis said Tuesday that antibody treatments “proven to be 100 percent effective in preventing the progression of the virus’ symptoms” are available to some residents who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Ellis said the Health Department is currently tracking 105 active COVID-19 cases in the territory, including 75 on St. Thomas, 25 on St. Croix, and five on St. John. There is one COVID-19 patient currently being treated at Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas.

Monoclonal antibody treatments are available and most suitable for treating mild to moderate cases in adults and in pediatric patients 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds who are at high risk for progressing to more severe illness or hospitalization, according to information from Government House.

To be considered high risk, patients must meet one of the following criteria: significant obesity, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, immunosuppressive disease, currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment, are 65 or older, are 55 or older and have cardiovascular disease or other respiratory disease, or are 12 to 17 and have a heart, lung or neurological conditions.

“These antibodies neutralize the virus and can potentially treat patients with COVID-19. The antibodies were identified from blood samples taken from some of the first patients who recovered from COVID-19 in the United States,” Ellis said. “All the patients report a dramatic improvement in symptoms within 24 to 48 hours.”

The treatments are not appropriate for everyone and have not been authorized for use in patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19; require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19; or those who require an increase in baseline oxygen due to COVID-19 or those who require chronic oxygen therapy due to underlying non-COVID-19 related morbidity.

Ellis also announced that as of Tuesday, the V.I. Health Department has advanced to Phase 1C of the vaccination plan. This phase includes individuals who work in: water and waste management, food services, shelters and housing, finance, information technology, communications, energy, legal and media. Individuals who were eligible to be vaccinated as part of Phases 1A and 1B also continue to be eligible to be vaccinated.

To date, 11,079 first doses of the vaccine have been administered in the territory, and 4,222 second doses, for a total of 15,301 total doses administered.

Anyone who thinks they may have contracted COVID-19 can call the Epidemiology hotline at 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519. For more information, visit covid19usvi.com.

For information about the COVID-19 vaccines, call the VITEMA hotline Mondays-Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 340-777-8227.

— Contact Suzanne Carlson at 340-714-9122 or email scarlson@dailynews.vi.