Monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19

Getting diagnosed with COVID-19 can be scary. However, since the pandemic began, more treatments have become available to reduce the severity of COVID-19 in those who have become infected.

Monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatments are one such form of treatment that have been authorized for emergency use in the United States.

What is a monoclonal antibody?

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.

mAb treatment

Early evidence suggests that mAbs administered by an infusion or an injection can reduce the amount of COVID-19 virus present in someone infected with COVID-19. By doing so, mAbs can prevent hospitalization due to COVID-19 and prevent the disease from progressing any further in those treated.

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 forms of treatment. If you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, you should make an appointment to get one.

Who’s eligible for mAb treatment?

People who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 and who have had symptoms within 10 days of their positive COVID-19 test may be referred by their health care provider for mAb treatment.

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 play individual patients at higher risk and the above list and so this emergency authorization is not limited to the medical conditions or factors listed above. Please refer to the FAQ document published by FDA on this topic for more information.

Individuals must be referred for mAb treatment by a health care provider in order to be eligible. Individuals who don’t have a health care provider can call 1-877-332-6585 to talk about treatment options.

How mAb treatment works

Once a health care provider has referred someone for mAb treatment, the individual will then be given a mAb infusion via an intravenous (IV) drip at their home or at a designated infusion center. Alternatively, mAb treatment can be administered via an injection.

The whole process can take anywhere between 1.5 to 3 hours. During that period of time, an individual receiving treatment will be screened by the mAb treatment provider, receive the infusion or injection from the health care provider and then be monitored for one hour following their mAb treatment.

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 administration site.

Furthermore, similar to 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:

  • 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 only authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is still being studied by scientists. For more information visit CombatCovid or talk to your health care provider.