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What you need to know about monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19

As COVID hospitalizations rise, Dr. Nash wants to make sure people have the information they need about one method of treating COVID-19: monoclonal antibodies.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — From variants to vaccines to treatments, misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to run rampant.

As COVID hospitalizations rise in Arkansas, Dr. Creshelle Nash wants to make sure people have the information they need about one method of treating COVID-19: monoclonal antibodies.

"We are learning as we go along," Nash said. "We have to have consistent, accurate messaging for people to make good decisions, not only for themselves and their family, but for the community at large as we get through this pandemic."

Nash is Medical Director for Health Equity and Public Programs at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. 

She stresses the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine to prevent infection but said monoclonal antibodies can be effective in certain situations.

"This is a tool in the toolbox to help us fight COVID-19, but it is not a replacement for vaccination," she said. "We still know that vaccination is the best line of defense, but we have to layer on those lines of defense.

Monoclonal antibodies are for those at increased risk for hospitalizations and death from COVID who have tested positive for the virus or have been in close contact with someone else who has.

"Monoclonal antibodies are like a first responder," Nash said. "Vaccination teaches your body how to make the antibodies. This monoclonal antibody is giving you the antibody right away, so you're able to fight it quicker. But monoclonal antibodies don't last as long as the vaccine."

The antibodies are given through an IV infusion or by putting small needles under the skin. They require a prescription and are often administered at outpatient hospitals, pharmacies, and doctor's offices.

"We know that it's effective," Nash said. "When I say it's effective, I mean that it decreases your risk of hospitalization and death by like 70%."

According to Nash, the treatment is best when administered within 10 days of experiencing COVID symptoms.

Although monoclonal antibody treatment is provided free by the federal government, patients could have to pay an administration fee depending on their healthcare plan.

Click here to view the Arkansas Department of Health guidance for monoclonal antibodies.