Vaccine Holdouts Embrace COVID Antibody Treatment, Mystifying Doctors

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WebMD 04 October, 2021 - 01:24pm 4 views

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Monoclonal antibody treatment: What is it and where to receive it?

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 05 October, 2021 - 04:10am

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Monoclonal antibody therapy is a treatment approved for people who test positive for Covid-19 and are at risk to get severely ill. It is given before the person needs to be hospitalized and can prevent the illness from developing to dangerous levels.

“It is to turn the tide, allow your body to start fighting the virus on its own and kind of give it that jumpstart that it needs to start healing,” explained Dr. Claire Stoltz, who works at Tanana Valley Clinic.

Originally, the treatment was available to anyone 12 and older and who is prone to get severely ill if infected with Covid, but since virus transmission and the demand for treatment have increased, health officials narrowed the eligibility requirements. Now it’s available to vaccinated people who are immunocompromised and unvaccinated people who are at risk for the disease.

“We are uncomfortable with that as medical providers — of course, we want to provide everybody everything all the time and make sure we’re giving everyone every opportunity,” Stoltz said. “But because of that shortage, we changed that access for now, to provide it to people that we know are at the highest risk of being hospitalized.”

Whenever we are exposed to a virus, our bodies are designed to make antibodies to fight it off, Stoltz said. People who are vaccinated get less sick because “they’ve had that little exposure,” and taught their bodies, “‘Hey, this is what to expect. When you see Covid-19, you know what to do.’”

Those who are unvaccinated haven’t had that exposure, and it takes longer for their bodies to start making antibodies.

Monoclonal antibody treatment provides “artificial antibodies that kick in before your body’s own immune system has a chance to ramp up,” Stoltz said.

While some patients do end up in the hospital with Covid even after the treatment, it happens rarely, Stoltz said. The treatment is most effective if given early, within five to seven days after symptom onset, though patients can receive it up to 10 days afterward. The patients whom Stoltz has been monitoring saw progressive improvements about 12 hours after the infusion.

“I just treated someone this weekend and was able to watch their oxygen level come up,” she said. “In terms of efficacy and safety, it’s actually a very well-tolerated treatment, and we’ve had very few and minimal side effects to it.”

If you experience Covid-19 symptoms, get tested as soon as you can. Covid-positive people can check their eligibility for the treatment and schedule it through their primary care provider, emergency room or first care clinic.

The treatment is available for free, with costs covered either by insurance or government.

In Fairbanks, you can receive the treatment at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital as well as Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center. Pioneer Home has some access to the treatment as well.

At FMH, to make sure patients are safe and have enough room, the administration created a space specifically for giving monoclonal antibody infusions. From administering five to 10 doses in November, the hospital now serves from 25 to 30 patients, seven days a week.

“The nurses have really stepped up in terms of taking extra shifts and working extra hard because they see the benefit of this treatment,” Stoltz said.

The treatment is given through injection and takes about 20 minutes. The patient is observed for 30 minutes after the treatment and is free to go home.

Learn more about the treatment and your eligibility at www.foundationhealth.org/covid19/treatment. You can also talk to your health provider about it or call statewide Covid-19 helpline at 907-646-3322.

While monoclonal antibody treatment can help people who got infected with the virus, the only preventative treatment available is getting a Covid-19 vaccine.

“We have a big cliff we don’t want the people to fall off from, so we build a fence — that’s our vaccines that keep people, as many as possible, from falling over that fence over that cliff,” state clinical pharmacist Coleman Cutchins said. “Monoclonal antibodies are the safety net. You still fall off the cliff, it catches you, but you are more likely to get hurt.”

Stoltz agreed that the monoclonal antibody treatment is “like Hail Mary pass to keep people out of the hospital.”

“The vast, vast majority of patients in FMH right now are unvaccinated patients,” Stoltz said. “Prevention is the best way to give your body the fighting chance. It’s not too late to get vaccinated.”

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