New clinic to provide COVID-19 prevention treatment for immunocompromised patients

A COVID-19 prevention clinic that will provide a treatment for high-risk, immunocompromised patients has launched in Melbourne’s east.

Operated by Eastern Health at Maroondah Hospital, the clinic will administer the prescription Evusheld injection for people with conditions that prevent them from responding to the COVID-19 vaccine.

In February, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) granted provisional approval for the use of Evusheld to prevent COVID-19 in people who are at risk of infection, but have not been exposed to the virus.

The TGA described this as “pre-exposure prevention of COVID-19”.

According to the new service’s clinical lead, Kara Nowak, Evusheld reduces the risk of a patient testing positive for COVID-19, as well as protecting against critical illness if the patient contracts the virus.

Dr Nowak said the clinic’s treatment would mostly be used for immunocompromised people who may not be fully protected by the vaccine.

“There’s also a subgroup of patients [who] may have had a dose of the vaccine and had a very severe reaction to it, and have not been able to be fully vaccinated for that reason,” Dr Nowak said.

The clinic is expected to treat approximately 100 patients each week.

It’s currently only taking internal referrals, but there are plans to eventually treat patients who have external referrals.

Treatment gives high risk patient ‘a bit more freedom’

Fiona Lally, who works as a nurse, has received the Evusheld injection.

She suffers from multiple sclerosis and the medication she takes for the disease depletes her immune system.

Despite having five doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Ms Lally experienced severe symptoms when she contracted the virus.

“I was very unwell, with a temperature of 39.8 degrees,” she said.

“I went through all the symptoms, the shivers, the shakes.

“[It took] a good month of recovery to actually get back to feeling normal again.”

Ms Lally said she was on the verge of being hospitalised and would hate to think what would happen if she caught COVID-19 again.

She is worried about the virus, particularly as rules are relaxed during winter.

Ms Lally and her children wear masks in public and she is working from home to avoid the hospital environment.

She said receiving the Evusheld treatment had boosted her confidence, though she plans to continue taking cautious measures such as frequent handwashing.

“Hopefully it means there’s less of a chance of catching it again, particularly for the next three to six months,” she said.

“It will give me a bit more freedom, make me feel like I can go to some highly populated places more comfortably.”

Expert calls for ‘attitude change’ as Australia’s death toll climbs

Australia’s COVID-19 death toll has passed 10,000, as the government continues to loosen restrictions. 

Professor in infectious diseases — and director and chief executive of the Burnet Institute — Brendan Crabb told ABC Radio Melbourne that Australia needed an attitude change in its approach to the pandemic, given “9,000 or so [of the deaths] have happened since Omicron arrived in the last six months”.

Professor Brendan Crabb says the focus should be on protecting the whole community.(ABC News)

“Eight million or so people have been infected — that’s officially. It’s probably twice that number unofficially. 

He acknowledged that casual attitudes about the virus are understandable, as individual risk of death is now relatively low, at approximately one in every 1,000 cases.

“But, at a community level, where virtually every person is going to get COVID, the numbers and impact then are huge,” he said.

“The real thing is trying to protect the rest of our community.

Professor Crabb said some people might have recovered from COVID-19 and questioned what the “big deal” was over the virus.

“The big deal is you’re very likely to get it again, and again after that, and again after that, and every time we now know there’s cumulative damage to the individual,” he said.