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SAN DIEGO — Shortages in what can be life-saving treatments for some are forcing healthcare professionals to limit their use to only those who are severely at risk.

“Since everybody needs it right now because it’s a global surge with Omicron, that’s another factor causing a shortage because there’s so much need,” said Dr. Shira Abeles, an infectious disease expert who leads the COVID-19 response team at UC San Diego Health.

As Pfizer’s pill form of antiviral treatments was authorized by the FDA for emergency-use in late December, production lead time has been minimal. The entire state of California received only around 9,000 courses.

“Those can come in IV or pill,” Abeles said. “The drugs that just came out are in pill form, so it’s really nice because then the health systems don’t need a stand-up facility where COVID-positive patients come in and get treatment.”

Intravenous monoclonal antibodies were introduced early last year as a way to fight COVID. If administered within the first two or three days of symptoms, their aim is to keep people out of hospitals, lessening the severity of symptoms. But while those antibodies worked well on the Delta variant and others, they are not effective against Omicron.

“Regeneron and some of the other monoclonal antibodies are not going to be effective, so everybody’s had to shift to just one,” Abeles said.

Those who fall into a high-risk category should contact their physician. You can visit the County of San Diego website for more information on outpatient therapies for COVID-19.