Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge across North Carolina, the use of monoclonal antibodies for treatment of COVID-19 increased by 18-fold since late June from 100 administrations for the week of June 23 to 1,874 for the week of August 11.
Statewide, there are more than 130 sites offering monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 as this treatment can decrease the likelihood of hospitalization related to COVID-19.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is not a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19. However, it can reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and decrease the likelihood of hospitalization, especially in high-risk patients. If you test positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy must be administered within 10 days of your first COVID-19 symptoms, so it is crucial to get tested early.
Anyone who has symptoms of or been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested as soon as possible. Testing is widely available across the state. To find a testing site in your community, go to ncdhhs.gov/GetTested.
People who are not experiencing serious symptoms should not go to the emergency department for routine COVID-19 testing. People should seek medical attention immediately for serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face.
Vaccines are the best protection from COVID-19 related hospitalization and death, as well as complications from the virus and the vast majority of people in the hospital or dying with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Research has shown even people who had a mild case of COVID-19 may struggle with long-term effects like shortness of breath, chest pain and brain fog.
Talk to your health care provider to see if monoclonal antibody therapy is an option, find a treatment center near you or call the Federal Monoclonal Antibody Call Center for assistance at 1-877-332-6585 (English) or 1-877-366-0310 (Spanish). Some people may qualify for preventative treatment before showing symptoms. More information, including answers to frequently asked questions, are available on NCDHHS’ COVID-19 website.
The federal government is providing monoclonal antibody therapy at no cost to patients. However, health care providers may charge an administration fee for treatment. Medicare and many commercial insurance companies are covering all costs for patients. Check with your health plan to learn more about treatment costs.
Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in a laboratory to fight infections, in this case, the virus that causes COVID-19, and are given to patients directly with an IV infusion or a shot. Some early evidence suggests this treatment can reduce the amount of the virus, or viral load, that causes COVID-19 in a person’s body. Having a lower viral load may reduce the severity of symptoms and decrease the likelihood of hospitalization.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued an Emergency-Use Authorization to allow the use of monoclonal antibody therapies for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in certain high-risk patients. Additionally, the FDA authorized this treatment for use in some patients who are exposed to COVID-19 even if they do not have symptoms. People who are not fully vaccinated or who have immunocompromising conditions, including those taking immunosuppressive medications, and have either been exposed to COVID-19 or are at high risk of exposure due to where they live or work may qualify for preventative treatment.
Vaccination is the best protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. All unvaccinated North Carolinians age 12 and older should get a COVID-19 vaccine now to protect themselves, their community and those who cannot be vaccinated. Rigorous clinical trials among thousands of people ages 12 and older have proven vaccines are safe and effective. Almost 200 million Americans have been safely vaccinated.
In addition to getting vaccinated, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our communities, NCDHHS recommends that everyone wear a mask in indoor public spaces if you live in area of high or substantial levels of transmission as defined by the CDC until more people are vaccinated and viral transmission decreases. In North Carolina, that is now all 100 counties.
Free COVID-19 vaccines are widely available across the state to anyone 12 and older. To get a vaccine near you, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call 888-675-4567. You can also text your ZIP code to 438829 to find vaccine locations near you.