It is likely you may know someone who has had COVID-19. While there is no cure for COVID, there are treatments available to help lessen the severity of its symptoms.
Monoclonal antibody treatments, or mAbs, are available to those who have tested positive for COVID or were exposed to someone with COVID, and are at a higher risk of experiencing more severe COVID symptoms. This may be a great option for you or someone you know if they meet the eligibility criteria.
What is Monoclonal Antibody Therapy and How Does it Work?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines mAbs as “laboratory-produced molecules that act as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance, or mimic the immune system’s attack on cells.” In other words, mAbs help your body to stop COVID-19 from causing more serious symptoms that could lead to hospitalization and death.
To some, this treatment may sound new, but according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the use of monoclonal antibodies has actually been around since the mid-seventies. In fact, monoclonal antibodies have already been used to treat illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
The use of mAbs has proven to be very useful because of how customizable they can be depending on their use. For example, the mAbs that you would use for the treatment of cancer would be different from the mAbs that are being used to treat COVID-19.
As the Houston Methodist explains, the mAbs that are made specifically for the COVID-19 virus are unique because they are designed to attack the spike protein that the COVID virus uses to “attach and gain entry into human cells.”
Keep in mind that mAbs are not designed to replace COVID vaccines. However, with a little help from the mAbs, the body can have a better chance of fighting off the virus before symptoms become too difficult to manage.
Who is Eligible for Monoclonal Antibody Treatment?
As of December 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that the mAb COVID treatments are only “for people at high risk of disease progression.” The FDA supports this statement, mentioning that those who are at high risk and who “have been exposed to an individual infected with SARS-CoV-2 consistent with close contact criteria per [the CDC]” may also be eligible for treatment.
The mAbs are authorized for people ages 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds. It is important to know that “you do not need to have symptoms or test positive to qualify for mAb treatment if you are at high risk for serious COVID-19,” according to Combat COVID.
As the Houston Methodist explains, those who are at high risk include people who have medical conditions like or are:
- Older (65 or older)
- Obese/Overweight or have a body mass index over 25
- Chronic kidney, lung, or sickle cell disease
- Currently receiving an immunosuppressive treatment
- Cardiovascular disease/hypertension
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
- Medical-related equipment dependence
When Should You Get the Monoclonal Antibodies Treatment?
Experts at the National Institutes of Health say it is extremely important to get the mAb treatment as soon as you have tested positive for COVID-19 and “within 10 days of symptom onset.” Those who are at high risk and had a recent COVID-19 exposure are also candidates for this treatment and should receive it soon after their exposure.
Getting this treatment early is incredibly important in order for mAbs to work properly. The University of Tennessee Medical Center states, that even though symptoms may not seem serious early on, the mAbs will help your body avoid getting severely sick as the virus progresses.
What You Can Expect When Getting This COVID Treatment
According to the FDA, the mAb treatment received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in November 2020. While it has been a year since the emergence of this treatment, it has prompted many questions:
What is The Cost of the Monoclonal Antibody Treatment?
The monoclonal antibodies COVID cost is one of the leading questions brought up regarding this treatment. The good news is that mAb treatments are usually covered by most major insurances, which may include Medicaid and Medicare.
It is recommended to refer directly to your specific insurance policy if you are unsure what your plan coverage includes. If you are uninsured, government funding may be available to help cover mAb treatment. Health Resources and Services Administration is a great resource if you have questions about your insurance status and coverage of COVID treatments.
How is the mAb Treatment Administered?
There are a couple of ways that the mAb treatment can be administered. Depending on where you receive your mAb therapy treatment, there are two options. One option is treatment through IV infusion at an infusion center. This treatment is also known as a monoclonal antibody infusion. The other option for mAb treatment is called monoclonal antibody injection. This treatment requires 4 shots administered subcutaneously (SC).
The IV infusion and injection methods are both great options. As the NCBI explains, both administrative methods have their strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately when safety and efficacy is concerned, they are about equal.
What are the Monoclonal Antibodies COVID Side Effects?
Just like the COVID-19 vaccines, the mAb treatment can have a few side effects. According to the Washington County Health and Human Services, side effects of monoclonal antibody treatment may include:
- Trouble breathing
- Pain, bleeding, bruising at the injection sites
- Faster or slower heart rate
- Feeling tired or weak
How Long Do Monoclonal Antibodies Last?
The mAb treatments have been shown to “reduce the risk of COVID-19 by 81.6% several months after a single dose,” according to the UNC School of Medicine. With recent advancements in healthcare regarding these treatments, it seems mAbs may pave the way to creating a treatment for lasting immunity to COVID.
Will Monoclonal Antibodies Make You Test Positive for COVID?
Often those who choose to get this treatment have already tested positive for COVID. There is little research proving that mAbs cause people to test positive for COVID. Of course, mAbs have been used just recently for the treatment of COVID-19, so data continues to grow as we all navigate how to handle this virus.
Where Can I Receive The mAb Treatment?
Select healthcare providers in Colorado offer monoclonal antibody treatments. Click here to visit the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment to find mAb treatments near you.