Prisma Health hospitals administering more COVID antibody treatments to keep beds open during surge

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:03 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:21 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As COVID hospitalizations rise, some hospitals in the Midlands are administering more treatments at the same time to keep high-risk patients with COVID at home and keep beds open.

Prisma Health said its staff has given more than 1,000 monoclonal antibody infusions at Richland Hospital in Columbia and Tuomey Hospital in Sumter since December.

The FDA, which has given the infusion emergency use authorization, said monoclonal antibodies act as substitute antibodies in a person’s body, helping their immune system respond to the coronavirus to keep it from reproducing and making someone sicker. The one-time treatment takes about 30 minutes to administer, according to Dr. Steve Shelton, the medical director of Prisma Health’s COVID infusion center.

“High-risk individuals likely have about a 15% chance of being hospitalized just by getting COVID,” Shelton said. “With the monoclonal antibodies, we’ve gotten that number down to 3%, so we’re seeing great results with the monoclonal antibodies.”

He said the number of monoclonal antibody treatments given at Prisma Health hospitals has “increased significantly” recently as case numbers continue to rise.

“The hospital is busy with non-COVID cases. Now we start throwing an increased surge of our COVID-positive patients, so we are feeling the stress of having and admitting COVID-positive patients,” Shelton said.

But not everyone who has COVID qualifies for the treatment.

People must be at least 12 years old to receive it, and they must be considered high-risk for hospitalization.

“The monoclonal high-risk individuals are defined as those that are greater than 65, those that are overweight, specifically with a BMI of greater than 25; pregnant individuals are considered high risk; chronic kidney disease, diabetes, those with weakened immune systems, lung disease, or heart disease,” Shelton said.

People must also have mild to moderate COVID symptoms to receive monoclonal antibodies, and they cannot be hospitalized or need oxygen.

The treatment can also only be given within 10 days of symptoms beginning.

“We often see individuals who get diagnosed with the disease early, specifically these high-risk individuals, who don’t feel too bad early on but get much worse later,” Shelton said. “Unfortunately, early on, they don’t think they need the monoclonal antibodies, and then there’s the mad rush near that end of the 10-day mark to try to get infused.”

Shelton recommended anyone who is COVID-positive and falls into that high-risk category talk with their primary care physician as soon as symptoms start about this treatment so they don’t miss that 10-day window.

While Shelton said they have seen positive results from the infusion, he said it is not a substitution for vaccination.

“While we’re successful at keeping folks out of the hospital, there’s still that 3% that will be hospitalized and can have complications, so our goal is to have no one with it, so that requires immunity, and that immunity comes with vaccination,” he said.

The FDA also recently authorized one of the monoclonal antibody treatments, Regeneron, for preventative use for high-risk and unvaccinated people exposed to the virus.

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