Doctor on monoclonal antibody treatment: ‘It is a powerful tool…an even more powerful tool is the vaccine’

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DES MOINES, Iowa — As health care professionals continue to advise people to get vaccinated for COVID-19, we’re reminded of a treatment effort that works in a similar way.

Monoclonal antibody treatment mimics the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful viruses, and it’s proving to be a helpful tool in this pandemic.

“It’s pretty dramatic,” Dr. Larry Severidt, director of medical education for Broadlawns Medical Center, said. “I’ve had a couple people that within 24 hours they were just much better, so it’s quite effective.”

Dr. Severidt prescribes the infusion treatment to some of his patients. It’s an option for those who are 12 or older, have mild to moderate symptoms, and are at high risk to get very sick from COVID-19.

“It reduces the likelihood that you’ll get critically ill or end up in the hospital by about 75%,” Dr. Severidt said.

But timing is critical. Dr. Severidt said the treatment needs to be given within the first 10 days of symptoms. Patients who are hospitalized or require oxygen don’t qualify.

Here’s how it works. Patients are injected with laboratory-made antibodies that attack the spike protein that’s on the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

Dr. Ravi Vemuri, an infectious disease consultant at MercyOne Des Moines, explains it’s basically what would happen if you took a vaccine.

“If you took a vaccine, your body produces the antibodies and that helps protect you from getting severe disease, protects you from getting hospitalized, and ultimately protects you from dying of the virus,” Dr Vemuri said.

Doctors clarify the treatment is not a replacement for the vaccine, and still urge people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“It is a powerful tool that we have,” Dr. Vemuri said. “An even more powerful tool is the vaccine.”

Doctors say if you’re vaccinated and have breakthrough COVID, you can still receive monoclonal antibody treatment. If you want to get vaccinated after receiving monoclonal antibody infusion, the CDC recommends you wait 90 days.

Hy-Vee Pharmacy Solutions, located at 215 10th St., Suite 110 in Des Moines, is now licensed to administer the antibody treatment.

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