Alabama working to expand Monoclonal Antibody treatment
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Doctors call monoclonal antibody infusions “the answer” to preventing COVID-19 hospitalization, but now the question becomes how to make the treatment available to more people in Alabama.
“Everybody agrees, this is the best treatment,” said Dr. David Thrasher, Montgomery-area pulmonologist.
The Medical Association of the State of Alabama said the treatment helps the body build rapid immunity to COVID-19 and prevents hospitalization in about 70 percent of COVID-19 patients.
“Injections of the antibodies can be administered in a physician’s office, but getting the treatment early is key,” said Dr. Aruna Arora, President of the Medical Association.
“Those who test positive for COVID should immediately talk to a doctor and request antibody treatment. However, this treatment is no substitute for getting vaccinated. If you get the vaccine, you are less likely to get COVID, less likely to get severely sick, and much less likely to die.”
There are over 100 antibody infusion clinics available in Alabama. Still, with hospitalizations and deaths on the rise due to the spread of the delta variant, doctors are pushing to increase access to the treatment.
Surrounding states like Florida have opened a number of state-run antibody clinics, some with the ability to offer more than 300 infusions a day. Right now, none of Alabama’s clinics are state-run.
“I think when we look at what other states are doing, some states have brought in federal resources to do this, and that’s not out of the realm of possibility here in the state of Alabama, but I think the question arises when we have over 100 sites to be able to do this, where else do we need to put this,” said Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Doctors administering the infusions say infrastructure and adequate supply aren’t the problem. The problem is a lack of staff available to administer the infusions.
“It’s not a problem of places to give these. The problem is who’s gonna give them,” Thrasher said.
Health experts say the key to expanding the treatment in Alabama is getting urgent care facilities and doctor’s offices to help promote the treatment and administer it, especially since the monoclonal antibody treatment can now be given subcutaneously.
“We can do this in doctor’s offices and perhaps other places by giving them subcutaneous, where you put the needle under the skin, give four shots in the same sitting and then go home,” Thrasher said. “That enables doctors’ offices in these rural counties, particularly which do not have the access, that we do say here in Montgomery and Birmingham, to treat their patients.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health said they are working to promote this treatment and expand it across the state.
“The promotion that is being done to use not only the IV infusion but also the subcutaneous infusion can really allow entities a broader base to be able to do this,” Landers said.
Regeneron, the company that makes the monoclonal antibody, has guaranteed to Dr. Thrasher they will have plenty of supply for any doctor’s office that wants to administer the treatment.
If you test positive for COVID-19, your doctor can help you find an antibody infusion clinic near you.
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