Monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 (update)

Getting diagnosed with COVID-19 can be scary. However, in addition to the safe and effective vaccines, we now have more treatments available that can reduce the severity of COVID-19 in those who have become infected.

Monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatments have the potential to save lives and relieve the burden on Oregon’s health care system and are now available in subcutaneous (an injection) treatment, in addition to the intravenous (IV) formulation.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

An antibody is a protein that our bodies naturally create to fight off infection. Monoclonal antibodies are proteins developed in a lab in order to fight off infections that our bodies aren’t familiar with, like COVID-19.

Is monoclonal antibody treatment effective in fighting COVID-19?

Monoclonal antibody treatments mimic our immune system’s response to SARS-CoV-2 (the infection that causes COVID-19). In clinical trials, mAb (Casirivimab/Imdevimab) treatment reduced the risk of hospitalization by 50% in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. Furthermore, mAb has been shown to reduce the risk of symptomatic COVID-19 by 81% when used as a post-exposure treatment.

It’s important to note that mAbs can only treat an existing COVID-19 infection and don’t train your body to fight off future infections the same way that the COVID-19 vaccines do.

As such, mAb treatment and COVID-19 vaccination should not be viewed as interchangeable. If you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, you should make an appointment to get one.

Is monoclonal antibody treatment available in Oregon?

Yes, one monoclonal antibody treatment is currently available in Oregon through Health and Human Services (HHS) at no charge. This is the product that has been authorized for both treatment and post exposure prophylaxis. Other products are available directly through the manufacturer as well and are authorized for use for treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19. The treatment is effective against the Delta variant, which is rapidly circulating in Oregon, and will help alleviate the intensifying strain on our hospital systems.

Who is eligible to receive monoclonal antibody treatments?

People ages 12 and older who weigh at least 88 lbs. and:

  • Have tested positive for COVID-19
  • Are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19
  • Had first symptoms within the last 10 days
  • Are considered high risk for going into the hospital because of age, weight, pregnancy, immunosuppressive disease or treatment for some other chronic disease. See the full list.

Who is eligible to receive post exposure treatment with monoclonal antibodies?

People ages 12 and older and who are exposed or at high risk for exposure (such as in congregate settings) and are:

  • Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated
  • Fully vaccinated but expected to not have as strong an immune response because of immunocompromising illness or immunosuppressive medications.

The following medical conditions may place patients (ages 12 and older) at higher risk for severe COVID-19:

  • Older age (≥65 years of age)
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment
  • If under age 55 then the following conditions are also considered eligible:
    • Cardiovascular disease (including congenital heart disease) or hypertension
    • Chronic lung diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension)
  • In children older than 12 with the following conditions:
    • Sickle cell disease
    • Neurodevelopmental disorders (such as cerebral palsy) or other conditions that confer medical complexity (such as genetic or metabolic syndromes and severe congenital anomalies)
    • A medical-related technological dependence

Other medical conditions or risk factors may place individual patients at higher risk; therefore, the above list is not comprehensive of the medical conditions that may qualify an individual for treatment. Please refer to the FAQ document published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on this topic for more information.

Where can eligible people get monoclonal antibody treatment?

OHA encourages people who believe they are eligible to receive mAb treatment to contact their health care provider. The subcutaneous form of mAb treatment can be administered by any qualified provider. If you do not have a health care provider, please call 1-877-332-6585 to talk about treatment options.

What can people expect during treatment?

Once a health care provider has referred someone for mAb treatment, the individual will then be given an injection at a designated location or an infusion via an intravenous (IV) drip at their home or at an infusion center. During an appointment, an individual receiving treatment will be screened by the mAb treatment provider, receive the injection or infusion from the health care provider, and be monitored for one hour following their treatment.

What are the potential side effects?

While mAbs are specifically created to fight off the COVID-19 infection, there is no chance of contracting COVID-19 from mAb treatment.

Someone receiving mAb treatment may, however, experience brief pain, bleeding, bruising, soreness, swelling and infection at the infusion administration/injection site.

Furthermore, like vaccines, there is a rare possibility that someone may experience an allergic reaction following mAb treatment. That’s why an individual receiving this form of treatment must be monitored for one hour after the procedure.

Someone receiving mAb treatment should immediately talk with their health care provider if they experience any of the following symptoms, as they may be a sign of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction):

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low blood pressure
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling of the lips, face or throat
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Muscle aches
  • Dizziness

mAb treatment is authorized for emergency use by the FDA and is still being studied by scientists. For more information, visit CombatCovid or talk to your health care provider.