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Monoclonal antibody infusion therapy playing significant role at Morris Hospital

Fewer people being hospitalized, not a substitute for vaccination, Morris infectious disease doctor said

Since last December, Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers has administered monoclonal antibody infusion therapy to 218 outpatients diagnosed with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 infection who met specific criteria that makes them at higher risk for severe illness.

In a news release from Morris Hospital, Dr. John Bolden, an infectious disease physician at the hospital, said he is “satisfied” at how monoclonal antibody infusion therapy is helping to keep people with COVID from being hospitalized.

Of the 218 infusions Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers has administered since December, 62 were given in the last month. Bolden estimated that 90% of these patients were not vaccinated against COVID-19.

“It’s done what the objective is, and that’s to keep people who are mild to moderately ill with COVID-19 from progressing to severe illness,” Bolden said in the release. “It has definitely managed to keep people out of the hospital.”

A monoclonal antibody infusion “delivers a neutralizing antibody medicine containing man-made antibodies,” similar to antibodies in recovered COVID-19 patients, the release said.

Bolden estimates fewer than 10 patients who received the infusion were hospitalized because of severe illness – and that cough, breathing difficulty and fatigue diminished after the infusion.

“It definitely decreases the duration of COVID-19 symptoms in terms of the number of days they felt ill,” Bolden said in the release.

Although patients at Morris Hospital typically receive this infusion as an outpatient in a negative air pressure area dedicated to the treatment, the hospital is now able to give the infusion when a COVID-19 patient comes to the emergency department – especially when “concerns arise about the patient’s severity of illness, duration of illness, transportation needs or mobility,” the release said.

Another plus: The administration time is reduced from 60 minutes to 21 minutes, according to the release.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” Bolden stressed in the release. “If a patient is diagnosed with COVID-19 in the emergency department and they are eligible to receive monoclonal therapy, they may be able to receive the treatment before they leave the ED rather than come back for an outpatient treatment at a later date. It’s on a case-by-case basis, but we can deliver this very easily now that it’s a 20-minute treatment.”

The release said people eligible for the infusion include those who:

· Are age 12 and older.

· Have a body mass index of 35 or higher.

· Have diabetes, chronic kidney disease or a condition that weakens the immune system.

· Are age 65 or older.

· Are age 55 or older if they have heart disease, high blood pressure or long-term lung disease.

· Are scheduled for infusion soon after testing positive for COVID-19 and within 10 days of symptom onset.

Hospitalized patients and those requiring oxygen therapy are ineligible for the treatment, according to the release.

Bolden emphasized that monoclonal antibody infusion is for acute infection. It is not a substitute for getting vaccinated.

“Over the long run, the vaccine is the most effective mode of protection against COVID,” Bolden said in the release. “The monoclonal antibody treatment just jump-starts your immune system if you have tested positive for COVID-19 and causes the antibody levels to increase.”