There’s a free, highly effective treatment for Americans who contract COVID-19 and its variants that could immediately relieve hospitals and slow the pandemic, but President Joe Biden has been tight-lipped about the lifesaving care.
Monoclonal antibody treatment has been found to reduce hospitalization and death from COVID by a stunning 70%, with almost no side effects, based on preliminary findings in recent studies. It’s also been shown to shorten the duration of symptoms by four days.
Yet, awareness of the treatment is abysmal — and that’s in large part due to the efforts — or lack of effort — from the Biden administration, most notably President Biden himself.
You likely first heard of such treatment from former President Donald Trump, who famously had the antibody infusion when he was infected with COVID and made a quick turnaround. At the time, the treatment was not yet available to the public, and the media bashed Trump for calling the treatment a “cure.”
Since then, the treatment has been authorized for public use and has been widely praised by many doctors, patients, and public health officials — including some from the federal government. But word of the treatment and its availability (which you can view, here) is just not getting out fast enough.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is monoclonal antibody treatment?
The antibody treatment is essentially an infusion of supplemental antibodies that help your body fight off COVID — and fast, according to medical experts. University of Alabama at Birmingham Professor Turner Overton explained it this way: Your “immune system takes two to three weeks to make good antibodies,” but “monoclonal antibodies are supplemental antibodies that can be administered early in the course of infection — the first 10 days after symptoms commence — to rapidly bind and kill the COVID virus.”
Medical experts suggest that the treatment should be given to COVID-positive patients during the first ten days of symptoms.
Health officials have emphasized that vaccination is still the best option for Americans in reducing a patient’s chances of hospitalization and death. “The monoclonal antibodies are not as durable as the vaccine,” Dr. Overton said. “The vaccine trains a healthy immune system to protect from a future infection, and the protection can last much longer.”
Doctors and health officials rave
“This is the golden goose, okay, this is what we need, and we’ve got a short window to get these people treated,” said Dr. David Thrasher, a pulmonologist from Alabama. “This is the only thing in COVID that I’ve seen that is not controversial.”
“It is incredibly effective if given early enough,” Dr. Overton said of the antibody treatment, adding that the care is “lifesaving.”
Dr. Sujesh Pillai, Chief of Staff for Huntsville Memorial, said the hospital administered more than 50 infusions in a matter of two weeks, and only one person had to be admitted to the hospital.
“When you get the infusion treatment, it’s a one-hour IV infusion that we do in the hospital. You’re not admitted. You go home right after it’s done,” Pillai said. “It’s very well tolerated. It has been shown to have about 70 to 80% chance of preventing you from developing severe COVID or ending up coming to the hospital at all and helping you get a full recovery.”
Erin McCreary, director of stewardship innovation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, called the treatment “absolutely the standard of care for COVID-19. It is my hope that clinics know that.”
“It is absolutely vital that we continue expanding access to this life-saving treatment, which works hand in hand with vaccination,” said Flagler County Health Officer Bob Snyder. “I received monoclonal antibody therapy within 24 hours of testing positive for COVID-19 and was fully recovered within 48 hours of the treatment.”
Dr. Samuel L. Jacobs, a physician at the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, noted, “I had received my first dose of the vaccine prior to contracting COVID and I think the monoclonal antibody treatment saved my life and I’m very grateful. If someone tests positive for COVID and especially if they’re having symptoms, I strongly stress the importance of getting monoclonal antibodies basically as a life-saving measure.”
“The monoclonal antibodies work,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the government’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. “They are safe, they’re free, they keep people out of the hospital, and help keep them alive.”
“The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) is actively encouraging physicians and patients to consider monoclonal antibody treatment, which has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent hospitalization in people with mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19,” reads a press release from MDH.
President Joe Biden has not been pushing the effective treatment
President Joe Biden has not promoted the antibody treatment himself, though there have been a few instances where officials from the government have praised the treatment.
The Washington Post last month criticized Biden’s effort to get the word out about the care.
In mid-August, Nunez-Smith said the treatment is effective and helps “keep people alive.”
“Her statement marked one of the few times since the Biden administration took office that the antibodies have been promoted by the response team,” the Post slammed. “A review of its 52 briefings or news conferences shows they were discussed mostly when Anthony S. Fauci, the team’s infectious-disease specialist, offered a research update.”
“For the administration, mum’s the word on monoclonal antibodies, rapid home tests, high-quality masks . . . anything except vaccines,” Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told the Post. “Which is wrong, since we need every tool in the kit to effectively take on delta; we’re not doing that well at all.”
Former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan told the Post in August that “access is still uneven and way below the number of people who could potentially benefit.”
The Biden administration has taken “some very important steps,” McClellan said, but notably admitted that “there is still a big gap, an opportunity to get more people treated and get control of the pandemic, especially with hospitals getting full in many parts of the country.”
The most prominent company providing the treatment is Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, who’ve teamed up with the federal government to pass along the treatment to Americans for free. And the extent of their patient reach is, to put it bluntly, bad.
In late August, the company said it was reaching fewer than 30% of eligible patients — and that was up big-time from its numbers in July, when Regeneron reached fewer than 5% of eligible patients.
Why isn’t the treatment being promoted properly?
Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is without question leading the way to promote both vaccine and early care like antibody treatment, suggested some public health officials bypassed promotion of the treatment in an effort to drive behavior. Basically, officials were scared if Americans knew about the highly effective treatment, they might forgo a vaccine. DeSantis emphasized the importance of vaccination but criticized those, in his opinion, neglecting to inform the public about all their options and care.
There’s also the “Trump Factor” at play, here.
Americans probably first heard of antibody treatment from former President Donald Trump, who famously had the antibody infusion when he was infected with COVID and made a quick turnaround. At the time, the treatment was not yet available to the public, and the media bashed Trump for calling the treatment a “cure.”
Since then, the media seem timid to discuss the treatment.
Where is monoclonal antibody treatment available?
Of course, this treatment should be done in concert with your physician. But an easy way to check where these treatments have been shipped near you is to visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services user-friendly map, which can be accessed, here.