Sadly, the opportunity for antibodies to save lives at scale right here and now in the peak of the third wave was missed because therapeutics in general, and antibody therapeutics in particular, have suffered from gross underinvestment and lack of focus and urgency from the very earliest days of this epidemic. But it’s not too late – in either the need or the opportunity for antibodies to make a big difference.
Thanks to unprecedented global collaboration of both government and private industry, vaccines are rolling out. But vaccines:
- Will take at least until Q3 to achieve herd immunity;
- May not be optimally effective for the population groups that are most vulnerable to COVID-19;
- Due to both resistance and kinks in distribution will leave pockets of people unprotected for even longer; and
- do not help someone that has already been infected with the virus.
So, antibodies remain crucial. But supplies are limited. That’s why we need a targeted strategy matching antibodies to those who will most benefit, we can maximize the benefit.
The public health and medical community should set the specifics of enacting this, but it will also take support from our political leaders and the public. We must have supply, knowledge, awareness and action working in concert to match antibody therapeutics to the right patients at the right time: a strategy of Focused Protection.
This builds on the guidelines laid out in:
The details are critical, but, we think this would be a good place for each state to start.
- Demand funding and action from Congress and Operation Warp Speed to increase production and expedite distribution of antibody therapeutics.
- Implement a communications campaign to the public so that people who are in vulnerable population groups are aware that this therapy exists, and that early action is critical to their effectiveness.
- Set up a registry of these people, as well as a self service Web site for proactive people that would like to determine if they are vulnerable, and be able to develop a concrete plan of action for what they should do if they are infected.
- Set up a hotline and brief physicians / clinics / healthcare networks so that they know what to do with patients in their population that are at risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
With this action plan at the state and local level, we could start to empower citizens and public health leaders to work together in a smart, focused way to stay safe and re-open our economy more quickly over the first half of 2021.