Colorado governor pushes monoclonal antibodies for high-risk COVID patients
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Friday urged anyone who is eligible for monoclonal antibody treatment to get it, but not to use it as a replacement for vaccination against COVID-19.
Antibody treatment early in the disease’s course can reduce the odds of hospitalization by about 70%, but vaccines lower the odds by about 90%. Still, if a person didn’t get vaccinated, antibody treatment is their best option, Polis said.
“We need every bed that we have in our hospitals,” he said during a news briefing.
To be eligible for monoclonal antibody treatment, you must have a positive COVID-19 test and fit the following criteria:
- Age 12 or older
- Have mild to moderate symptoms (If you can’t breathe, it’s too late)
- Symptoms started in the last 10 days
- At high risk of severe disease because of age or chronic conditions
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said that if half of the eligible people get monoclonal antibody treatment, about 2,600 fewer people would be hospitalized through the end of the year, and the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on the projected worst day would be 150 to 300 lower.
Any reduction in hospitalizations could potentially be important, since Colorado is projected to come close to hospital capacity or exceed it by the end of December. Polis has called for hospitals to add 500 new beds, with about half of them for people receiving general care and about half in “step-down” units for those who aren’t yet strong enough to go home.
It’s not clear who will staff them, though, because hospital staff is already stretched thin across Colorado.
Monoclonal antibodies aren’t the only strategy. In the last two weeks, state officials temporarily halted cosmetic surgeries; called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help staffing hospitals; ordered hospitals to take any transferred patient they have the ability to care for; reactivated “crisis standards” for staffing to allow hospitals to stretch their workforces; and discussed how to ration care, if that becomes necessary.
Right now, Colorado has five buses delivering antibody treatments stationed in Mesa, El Paso, Pueblo, Montezuma and Weld counties, said Amanda Hettinger, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response. In their two-week “deployment” in those locations, they’ve treated 73 people, she told the Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee at the group’s Wednesday meeting.
The plan is to have as many people as possible get treatment through the urgent care centers and emergency rooms where they already went because of their symptoms, Hettinger said. The state will also hold clinics in Larimer, Pueblo and Mesa counties; put five additional buses on the road; and have “rapid deployment” teams to treat many people in places with outbreaks, like nursing homes, she said.
Colorado also could receive oral antiviral drugs starting in December, Hettinger said. Those are easier to administer because patients can take the pills at home, rather than going to an infusion site.
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