At a recent COVID-19 update new conference, Utah state epidemiologist Angela Dunn announced the deployment in the state of a new treatment designed to keep people who has contracted the coronavirus from becoming extremely sick. Called monoclonal antibody treatment, Dunn said it is commonly used to treat many other viral diseases, but it will not be available to everyone.
“What it does … someone is infected with COVID and we give them the antibodies to fight it before their body has a chance to make the antibodies, thus making the disease less severe,” Dunn said. “They’re extremely effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization.”
However, there’s a big caveat. Dunn said there is an extremely narrow window in distributing the treatment. It has to be given to someone immediately after they are diagnosed with the disease. If someone waits until they’re sick enough to be hospitalized, the antibodies won’t work.
The state received 5,000 doses of the treatment from the federal government and officials are reserving all of those doses for residents in long-term care facilities. Dunn said that’s where the largest portion of COVID-19 deaths occur.
“It’s so important to have that infrastructure in place to give [treatment] to those that are at the highest risk of disease,” Dunn said. The treatments have to be given through a blood infusion, and there aren’t many facilities that can provide those. So, the state health department will be using fixed-site infusion centers and creating mobile infusion teams that can rush to a long-term care facility in case of an outbreak.
“What a better way to use a limited resource for this very effective treatment than giving to our long-term care facilities right when [patients] are diagnosed,” Dunn said.