Monoclonal antibody treatments come to Southwest Florida

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
Monoclonal antibody site in Fort Myers. Credit: WINK News

Southwest Florida hospitals are currently filled with patients battling COVID-19. At Lee Health, 577 patients are being treated for the virus, 8 of whom are under the age of 18, and 798 people have died at Lee Health since the pandemic began, including 5 people on Tuesday. The use of monoclonal antibody treatments may help alleviate people’s symptoms as well as the strain on our hospitals.

Originally this treatment required a doctor’s referral, but an initiative from Gov. DeSantis has allowed the state surgeon general to say patients can receive it without a prescription or referral if the treatment is given at one of the state of Florida’s treatment sites.

This treatment is specifically designed for people that test positive for COVID-19 who have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms and have an underlying condition that may make them vulnerable. If you are exhibiting any of those and meet the criteria, you’re encouraged to get the treatment. It is free to everyone and your vaccination status does not matter, though doctors do say getting the shot is your best chance of fighting off the virus.

“Sometimes, patients tell me that they don’t want to take the vaccine because it’s still under emergency use authorization,” said Dr. Rebekah Bernard with Gulf Coast Primary Care. “That’s the same thing for the monoclonal antibodies. So if you don’t take the vaccine, because it’s still, you know, being tested, but you will take the monoclonal antibodies, remember that that’s really the same type of risk that you’re taking.”

It’s currently only available for adults and children 12 and up. There is a weight requirement of around 90 pounds, so it’s not really designed for small children.

These are lab-developed proteins designed to mimic the body’s immune system and help it fight off infections. While the vaccine helps keep people from getting sick, this treatment helps the people who do become infected, its purpose being to keep as many vulnerable people out of the hospital as possible. Doctors say it takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days to work.

“These monoclonal antibodies are really quite effective, they’re seen to be working very well; I still encourage patients really strongly to go ahead and get vaccinated, it’s always better to prevent disease than it is to treat it,” Bernard said. “Even if you’re catching it in the early stage, which is still much better than getting hospitalized.”

As of now, you will need to make an appointment to receive the treatment.

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