Md. health official: monoclonal antibody therapy can prevent COVID-19 symptoms from worsening

Monoclonal antibody therapy can help prevent mild COVID-19 symptoms from developing into more serious issues, and the Maryland Department of Health is concerned that about two-thirds of the people who might benefit from that early intervention are not getting it.

“If you have COVID, and you don’t want it to get so severe that you go to the hospital or you want to have your symptoms relieved sooner, this is the only treatment available,” said Dr. Howard Haft, executive director for the Maryland Primary Care Program within the state’s health department.

Haft said people with COVID-19 symptoms should get tested, and if found to be positive, they can discuss with a physician or someone from the health department whether the treatment is appropriate for them.

Opening on Saturday, April 3, a community COVID-19 testing site will also provide monoclonal antibody therapy. It welcomes walk-ins for “no barrier, no registration, free COVID-19 testing.”

The site is located at the City of Praise Family Ministries at 8500 Jericho City Drive in Landover. It will be open Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon; Mondays, 2 to 6 p.m.; and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

As of mid-March, 5,149 monoclonal antibody therapy infusions were administered in the state, but they’re not broken down by county of origin, only by where people were infused. The therapy is available at more than two dozen sites across Maryland, with an emphasis on trying to reach higher-risk members of underserved communities.

“We’ve also provided transportation for those who don’t have transportation,” Haft said. “And we’re very happy to be opening up yet another site in Prince George’s County adjacent to FedEx Field at the City of Praise site together with a testing facility. So, people can get tested and also, if they need to, get monoclonal antibody therapy at the same site.”

The antibodies used in the treatment are laboratory-made proteins that mimic a body’s natural antibodies’ ability to fight viruses. Compared to COVID-19 positive people who do not receive the treatment, it’s shown to result in fewer COVID-19-related hospitalizations or emergency room visits.

The treatment includes a one-time, intravenous infusion that can take between 15 minutes and a half-hour. The medical staff watch over the recipient for about an hour. Allergic reactions or other side effects are rare.

The dose of antibodies is free, and in Maryland people can’t be billed for costs related to administering the free therapy.

Frequently asked questions about monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 are available on the health department’s website.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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