East Feliciana Parish is a small community in a huge ongoing fight with COVID-19 and local, state and federal officials hope that new treatment availability will be a game-changer in the battle.

The Louisiana Department of Health opened a mobile monoclonal antibody therapy treatment site on Plank Road in Clinton on Sept. 14 in the parking lot of the alternative learning center.

The Louisiana National Guard has set up centers across the state in the style of MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) units in community setting as opposed to the hospitals and clinics that first distributed the antibody infusion therapy.

The CDC reports that only 35% of the East Feliciana population is fully vaccinated, but the antibody treatments can go a long way reducing hospitalizations and capping off the COVID-19 deaths in the parish now at 140.

"We were always in the running and was supporting having the infusion site here,” Parish Manager Jody Moreau said. “No matter what side of the aisle you are on in regard to masking or vaccinations, everyone knows that the infusions save lives.”

Moreau, who also serves as the parish’s homeland security director, said the placement was significant to the surrounding parishes as well as East Feliciana. “For us to be able to step up and support our region with this site following the horrible impacts from Hurricane Ida that so many of our neighboring parishes are dealing with is demonstrative of how neighbors are supposed to act during these times,” he said.

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Mindy Faciane, LDH public information officer, said the sites were strategically scattered across the state in both rural and urban area. Other locations include Rayne, Leesville, Lake Charles, and Baton Rouge. “Each of the nine health regions in the state was asked to select an urban and rural location for mobile mAb sites,” Faciane said. “Traffic flow, ingress, egress and population were taken into consideration when choosing these sites, including Clinton.”

Faciane said the identification and recommendation of the mAb sites was provided by the Louisiana National Guard, a critical LDH partner throughout the pandemic response.

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made antibodies produced in a laboratory that can mimic the human immune system response to infection, a LDH release explained. They are designed to block viral attachment and entry into human cells, thus neutralizing the virus that causes COVID-19. “The use of nonmedical facilities as monoclonal antibody (mAb) infusion sites increases access to Louisianans in urban and rural areas, bringing treatment closer to where people live and work,” Faciane said. “These sites do not replace the hospital and clinic sites that remain operational but augment them.”

The LDH advised that patients need to be referred by their doctor or other health care provider to a facility that offers the therapy such as a hospital or an infusion center. Monoclonal antibody treatments may be used for mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and children who are within 10 days of the start of their symptoms, at least 12 years of age or older and weigh at least 88 pounds and are at a high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.

The local contract was awarded to a joint venture of AshBritt Inc. and IEM Health, a collaboration used across the region and country for vaccination rollouts. “AshBritt-IEM was chosen through State-issued Solicitation for Offer, or competitive bid, as the local contractor to work with the Clinton site,” Faciane said. “AshBritt-IEM has responded to disasters in Louisiana for many years, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”