UCHealth is helping to significantly expand the availability of COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy in northern Colorado.
This outpatient treatment is for people who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, have mild symptoms, are at high risk for getting a severe infection, are not yet hospitalized and have symptoms that started in the past 10 days. This includes people 65 years old or older, pregnant women, those who are obese or overweight and people with certain underlying medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, weakened immune systems, mental health conditions, lung, kidney or liver diseases, and more.
The two simple goals of this treatment are to lessen the severity of the disease and to prevent hospitalization. Patients who meet the qualifications for this treatment can now receive treatment at a special COVID-19 Treatment Center that has been stood up at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. This FEMA-funded effort is being coordinated by the Colorado State Unified Coordination Center and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the request of Gov. Jared Polis.
UCHealth has been providing monoclonal antibody therapy for approximately one year in other locations throughout the state. This new treatment center at MCR, which is able to treat approximately 80 patients a day if needed, recently opened following nearly three months of rising numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the region as well as rapidly increasing use of monoclonal antibody therapy.
Since March, UCHealth has administered more than 5,570 treatments systemwide. About 44 percent of those patients – approximately 2,460 – were treated in November alone as this therapy has become a key tool in the fight against COVID-19.
Antibodies are proteins that exist in our bodies as part of our immune system to recognize and defend against harmful viruses and bacteria. Monoclonal antibodies are made in a laboratory and designed to target a specific virus or bacteria. Monoclonal antibodies against COVID-19 attach to the virus to block it from entering human cells. The monoclonal antibody protein also “marks” the virus to be broken down by the immune system and cleared from the body.
“Not only is monoclonal antibody therapy helping to keep at-risk populations from getting so sick they need to be hospitalized, it has been saving lives,” said Dr. Bill Neff, chief medical officer of UCHealth’s northern Colorado region. “The key factor is getting diagnosed early and being able to get in to be treated quickly.”
Appointments are required at all UCHealth monoclonal antibody therapy treatment sites. Patients should speak with their health care provider or schedule a visit with UCHealth Virtual Urgent Care to determine if they are eligible for the treatment and to discuss if it may be right for them. Patients who are at high risk and most likely to benefit from this treatment may be considered. Those not belonging to one of the high-risk groups will not be considered under the FDA guidance at this time.
“It’s important to note, though, that monoclonal antibody therapy is not a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19,” Neff said. “Getting vaccinated is still the best way to keep from getting sick with COVID-19.”