Monoclonal antibody therapy continues having major impact in fight against COVID-19 with the potential to do more

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 10:49 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - When it comes to the fight against COVID-19, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs has long preached that Plan A is vaccination and Plan B is monoclonal antibody therapy, with heavy emphasis on monoclonals acting as Plan B.

“We’re a big fan of the monoclonals in Mississippi, but the mortality reduction isn’t as good as the vaccine,” Dr. Dobbs said. “You’re not getting the best choice available to protect yourself.”

Thursday, Dr. Dobbs cited a study that monoclonals prevented nearly 3,000 hospitalizations since June.

Baptist Memorial Healthcare’s Medical Director of Infectious Disease, Dr. Steve Threlkeld, said Baptist — as a whole — has distributed over 17,000 doses of monoclonals since mid-November.

“It cuts the incidence of severe disease and death by about 70%,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “The vaccine cuts it by 90 or so percent and is much better studied than even the monoclonal antibody.”

He said the therapy has been a life-saving intervention for those who don’t have as good of an antibody response to the vaccine, such as immunocompromised people.

“In a moment where the hospitals were overpacked and stressed both from personnel and bed space around the southeastern United States, cutting hospitalization and death by 70% is a huge, huge thing to say,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

He said monoclonal antibodies have been used for quite some time for cancer and immunosuppressive therapies. The pandemic sped up the pace of discovery in terms of what the treatment is capable of, and Dr. Threlkeld said it likely isn’t going away anytime soon.

“I think much of cancer chemotherapy in the coming decades is going to be monoclonal antibody-based,” he said. “You won’t see a lot of the old-fashioned chemotherapy with the big toxicities.”

Dr. Threlkeld says the supply of monoclonal antibodies is more a concern than a “practical factor.” He said the national supply isn’t short at the moment, but a large portion of that supply is being used in the southeast, where cases remain high and vaccination rates low.

He said AstraZeneca came out with a new study on a longer-acting monoclonal antibody. The European vaccine producer found it prevented COVID-19 infections by as much as 77%, but there’s still more research to be done before it’s put to use.

Mississippi Baptist Medical Center offers monoclonal antibody therapy Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can give up to 62 treatments per day. To schedule an appointment, call 855-733-8863.

St. Dominic Hospital also offers the therapy and provided this statement Friday in terms of its efficacy:

“Expanded access to monoclonal antibody treatments has been an invaluable tool in helping to prevent hospital admissions and deaths from COVID-19. Here at St. Dominic’s, we worked as quickly as possible to make these treatments widely available through our St. Dominic Family Medicine and MEA clinic locations as well as at a dedicated Community COVID Treatment Center in Flowood where individuals can access testing and treatment without needing a referral from another clinic or provider. Since the beginning of August, more than 2200 individuals have received an infusion or Regeneron injection through a St. Dominic’s site.”

University of Mississippi Medical Center offers the treatment as well. To schedule an appointment, follow this link. 

The treatment is only effective if received within 10 days of symptom onset.

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