What is monoclonal antibody treatment?

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A nurse enters a monoclonal antibody site, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Numerous sites are open around the state offering monoclonal antibody treatment sold by Regeneron to people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to tour the state touting the use of monoclonal antibodies as a treatment for those who get sick with COVID-19 and to relieve pressure on hospitals. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

(ABC4) – If you’re unfamiliar now with the phrase monoclonal antibody treatment (yes, it’s a mouthful) now, those days are numbered.

This week, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) announced the opening of a brand new infusion center at Intermountain Healthcare’s Murray hospital, which will be able to provide treatment to up to 50 eligible people every day.

The new facility, which will exclusively provide the treatment to high-risk patients, was developed out of a new to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases that is straining the healthcare system in Utah, officials explained at the introductory press conference on Thursday.

“The hospital systems, at least along the Wasatch Front, were hitting up against their ability to infuse, and they were identifying more people who would benefit than they could actually offer it to,” said UDOH’s Deputy Director, Dr. Michelle Hofmann.

But what exactly is monoclonal antibody treatment, who is it for, and what effect can it have against COVID-19?

Here’s a rundown of some frequently asked questions many may have about the treatment:

What is it?

Monoclonal antibody treatment is given through an intravenous or IV infusion. The process takes about 2-3 hours, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Here’s the kicker though, to receive the treatment, which is an infusion of lab-created antibodies that can be used to combat COVID-19, you need to already test positive for the virus.

There is some documented history of the treatment having success, most famously when former President Donald Trump came down with COVID in October 2020. He was given an antibody-drug called Regeneron while receiving care at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Other antibody medications that have been recommended for use in Utah include sotrovimab, bamlanivimab, and etesevimab.

However, many members of the medical community, as well as political voices such as Utah Governor Spencer Cox, have stated the treatment is not an alternative to the vaccine. It basically helps a person who is sick with COVID recover faster and may decrease the possibility of long-term adverse effects.

Who can get it?

To determine who is eligible for monoclonal antibody treatment at this time, a set of criteria has been listed on the state’s coronavirus response website.

The qualifications that must be met include the following:

  • Patient must be at least 16
  • Have tested positive no more than 7 days after symptom onset
  • No new need of new or increased oxygen
  • Must not be admitted to a hospital for COVID or COVID-related complications
  • Patients who meet the above and are pregnant are eligible for treatment.
  • Those who are not pregnant and not vaccinated must have a risk score greater than 4.5
  • Those who are not pregnant and vaccinated must have a risk score greater than 8 or be severely immunocompromised

The risk score can be calculated online and is based on a number of factors, including sex, age, ethnicity, pre-existing conditions, and symptoms.

Younger people between 12-15 can be ruled eligible but have a positive test no more than a week after symptoms appear, and either have some kind of B-cell immunodeficiency or be morbidly obese with a BMI over 35.

What are the costs?

While the federal government is distributing treatment at no cost at the time being, some treatment centers may have some costs that may or may not be covered by insurance.

More information on insurance coverage can be found here.

Where can I get it?

In addition to the new facility at the Intermountain Healthcare Hospital in Murray, there are many other places throughout the state that are providing the treatment.

Here is a list provided by the state’s webpage on the topic:

  • Ashley Regional Medical Center – 435-790-2807
  • Beaver Valley Hospital – 435-438-7284
  • Blue Mountain Hospital – 435-678-4640
  • Castleview Hospital – Price – 435-636-4840 / 435-650-4895
  • Central Valley Medical Center – 435-623-3108
  • Gunnison Valley Hospital – Gunnison – 435-528-2118
  • Intermountain Healthcare – Statewide
  • Kane County Hospital – Kanab – 435-644-4178
  • Moab Regional Hospital – 435-719-3500
  • Ogden Regional Medical Center – 801-479-2470
  • Uintah Basin Medical Center – Roosevelt – 435-247-4298
  • University of Utah Health – SLC – 801-213-2130
  • Davis Hospital and Medical Center – Layton – (Please contact your Primary Care Physician to schedule an appointment)
  • Jordan Valley Medical Center – West Jordan – (Please contact your Primary Care Physician to schedule an appointment)
  • Mountain Point Medical Center – Lehi – (Please contact your Primary Care Physician to schedule an appointment)
  • Salt Lake Regional Medical Center – Salt Lake City – (Please contact your Primary Care Physician to schedule an appointment)

To make a long story short…

Basically, monoclonal antibody therapy is a treatment that could potentially make a person who has come down with COVID-19 feel better faster. If you suspect you need the treatment, it’s important to contact the proper medical figures as quickly as possible to stay within the window of symptom onset.

As well, you need to be considered high risk according to a scale of risk factors to receive the treatment.

It is not considered a replacement for getting vaccinated, which is still being encouraged, and in some cases, required by many leaders. However, it can get a person who tests positive feeling better, potentially preventing the need for hospitalization.

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