More than 750 treated with monoclonal antibody infusions at Mayo in Albert Lea thus far

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Albert Lea campus of Mayo Clinic Health System has been part of a larger effort to treat high-risk COVID-19 patients in southeast Minnesota through monoclonal antibody infusions.

Aside from Rochester, the health system is offering the infusion treatment in the region at the Albert Lea and Cannon Falls campuses, and as of last week had given out 1,000 infusions between the two locations, said Chris Gulden, operations administrator for the southeast Minnesota region of Mayo Clinic Health System. Of the first 1,000 infusions given, 770 took place at the Albert Lea clinic. 

Sumit Bhagra, site lead physician for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, said the infusions are for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or for people who are at high risk for developing it because of an exposure and who are showing symptoms. 

People who are COVID-19 positive are put into a stratification system that looks at that their co-morbidities and prioritizes them for the treatment based on risk, Gulden said. 

Bhagra said the treatment is not a substitute for vaccinations or masking and “does not give people a free pass to get infected.” It is also not for patients who have are already hospitalized with COVID-19. 

According to Mayo research, patients have shown a 60 to 70% reduction in the likelihood of being hospitalized with COVID-19 after receiving the treatment. 

“I would call this a nipping-the-disease-in-the-bud process,” Bhagra said, noting that it also provides an opportunity to decrease the burdens on hospitals. 

Gulden said the Albert Lea and Cannon Falls campuses were chosen to offer the treatment primarily because of geographic location and based on data from the Minnesota Department of Health. 

Bhagra said one of the benefits of being a collaborative integrated hospital system is that it can take a systemic look at this type of need and place these services where they would serve the greatest number of people. 

He anticipates the infusions to continue to be offered for at least the foreseeable future, which he described as the next four to eight weeks. 

“The best bet is to still get the vaccine to protect people from the bad effects of COVID-19,” Bhagra said. “If someone does get infected, this is one of the options available to ensure safe recovery and as good of an outcome as possible.”

Gulden concurred, noting early protection is still key.