KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Across the U.S. monoclonal antibody treatments have been in the headlines as more health leaders use them to help reduce the severity of COVID-19. However, officials said they mostly prevent people from being hospitalized and relieve some strain on the healthcare system. They may reduce the severity of COVID-19, but may not fully treat it.
Many people can get the treatment in East Tennessee, as long as they are eligible. The monoclonal antibody treatment is FDA approved under emergency use for people 12 and up.
East Tennessee Children's Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joe Childs said the treatments are custom made to be effective against prevalent COVID-19 variants.
"This is an excellent treatment to prevent progression against the disease. We think it's keeping a lot of high-risk kids out of the hospital," he said. "In this surge, it is affecting so many younger patients."
He said people between 11 years old and 20 years old are seeing some of the highest rates of COVID-19.
Childs said that one of the reasons people are hearing more about the treatment is because it is affecting younger people. However, he said that monoclonal antibody treatments have been around since the beginning of the year.
"There's really a need for it for those patients 12 and up that have real challenges with their health," he said.
At hospitals across East Tennessee, there are some eligibility requirements that patients must meet.
Monoclonal antibody treatments are generally available to those who:
- are high risk for developing severe COVID-19
- have a positive COVID-19 test and have not yet been admitted to the hospital
- are 12 years of age or older (and at least 88 pounds)
Post-exposure treatments are available to people who:
- have been exposed and fall under similar criteria
- are at high risk for developing severe COVID-19 and
- are 12 years old or older (and at least 88 pounds)
- are not fully vaccinated or vaccinated but immunocompromised
Dr. Childs said the treatment is not a replacement for the COVID-19 vaccine. It only gives a short-term solution to help people manage symptoms, while the vaccine gives patients long-term immunity.
A Clinton pharmacy is one of the first to start administering the treatment in East Tennessee. Dr. Tyler Dougherty, a pharmacist at Clinton Drug Store and pharmacy professor at South College said the treatments have been working well on their patients.
"It does help them be able to feel better sooner and prevent them from going to the hospital," he said. "We know that nursing staff and other healthcare providers are so overwhelmed that we want to keep as many people out of the hospital as we can."
There are two ways to receive the medicine. Patients can get an IV infusion or an under-the-skin injection. Health experts said that it is administered in four injections, typically two in the belly and two in the upper thigh.
The antibody treatment does require a doctor's referral. Your doctor would determine whether you are an at-risk patient.
To find a place that offers the treatment near you, click here.