As COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms continue to come into hospitals, the federal government has opened new antibody treatment centers across the U.S. in hopes of helping mitigate some of the more extreme cases.
El Centro, California, Tucson, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada, are the first locations of new federally-supported antibody treatment centers. All have opened since December.
The purpose is to help those newly diagnosed with COVID-19 that have a higher risk of serious infection. The antibody treatment helps bring that risk down.
“Antibodies are just the protein our body makes to fight virus,” Dr. John Hammer, an infectious disease specialist for Rose Medical Center, said. “The earlier it’s given, the better.”
“The creation of federal centers in places where you have high levels of transmission, high levels of hospitalization, ICU admissions, etc. It’s basically designed with the hope of reducing the number of people that have to go into the hospital,” he added.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the centers are focused on specific groups of people who are high risk, including those with diabetes, autoimmune diseases, chronic kidney disease, hypertension and chronic respiratory disease. Those ages 65 and older also fall into the high-risk category. The antibody treatment was authorized for emergency use back in November. By helping those at high risk early on, it could mean fewer patients in ICU beds, as some hospitals across the country remain near capacity.
Hammer said this treatment is not to be confused or replaced by the importance of a vaccine.
“Antibody treatments are designed to help patients early in the course of their illness to prevent the development of more severe illness, whereas vaccines are meant to protect patients from illness in the first place,” he explained.
Those who get the antibody treatment will need to wait 90 days before getting the vaccine.
“The important thing is the only way to slow the pace of the development of mutations is to continue to do what we’re doing,” he said.