Your ImmunoPrevention plan should start with getting a vaccine as soon as possible, of course. But vaccines will take time, and may not fully protect the most vulnerable. And if you catch COVID-19 before getting vaccinated, they cannot help you.
Mostly lost in all the coverage of vaccines is the fact that effective treatments are now available: Monoclonal Antibodies – specifically Bamlanivimab (Eli Lilly) and Casirivimab/Imdevimab (Regeneron). These have been shown in peer reviewed Clinical Trials to reduce the severity of disease, measured by the rate of hospitalization, by over 70%. They are based on technologies used successfully for many different viruses, including SARS and Ebola, and a strategy used successfully for over 100 years. While additional trials are still being conducted, both the history and data so far have merited both Emergency Use Authorizations and production and distribution of millions of doses by the FDA / HHS / Operation Warp Speed, and detailed playbook for how they can be saving lives now.
But early identification of an infection and treatment is the key to success – within 3 to 10 days after infection, the earlier the better. So you need a plan. There are four simple steps you can take right now to help protect yourself.
For High Risk People
1. Know Your Risk
COVID-19 is not equal in risk for all people. The risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death is far greater for the elderly and people with specific pre-existing conditions and vulnerabilities than for young, healthy adults, teenagers and children.
What You Can Do:
- Consult with your physician / healthcare provider to determine your risk profile.
- You can also use online resources for a self-assessment.
2. Make Sure Your Healthcare Providers Knows About Your Risk and About Monoclonal Antibodies
Completing step 1 should include ensuring that your physician / healthcare providers knows that you are at risk. Now, you need to make sure they know about the currently available treatments for Monoclonal Antibodies. Not all do. Antibodies are a largely forgotten and overlooked tool, and most attention has been focused on vaccines. For a variety of reasons, there is also a lot of confusion and hesitancy among some providers, versus others that are using them proactively to save lives.
What You Can Do:
- Send them links to this site and the HHS Site below. All of our pages provide links to direct sources of information at the CDC, NIH, FDA and Operation Warp Speed, as well as studies published in major science journals.
- Ask them to review the informational pages published by Regeneron and Eli Lilly for Physicians, and the New England Journal of Medicine articles below.
- Eli Lilly also has a very good hotline for both Physicians and Patients.
- Monoclonal Antibodies to Disrupt Progression of Early Covid-19 Infection
- REGN-COV2, a Neutralizing Antibody Cocktail, in Outpatients with Covid-19
- SARS-CoV-2 Neutralizing Antibody LY-CoV555 in Outpatients with Covid-19
3. Know where and how you can be treated if your are infected
This is crucial. Supplies are currently limited, and Monoclonal Antibodies must be administered with an IV (intravenous infusion) that require a facility dedicated to COVID-19 treatment. There is no single hotline or website to help patients find a provider offering the treatments. Many health systems have set up ways to identify and contact eligible patients who test positive for the coronavirus at testing sites or doctor’s offices. But the response of healthcare providers and states in setting varies widely, and referral systems vary from community to community.
This HHS online tool provides assistance to those trying to find monoclonal antibody resources. The site is still missing data for many states, but improving. The HHS has said the team is working “as rapidly as possible” to update the site and add more resources.
You may want to consider participating in a ACTIV2 Clinical Trial – but need to understand that these are double blind where some portion of patients receive a placebo.
- RiseaboveCOVID.org – Rapid Enrollment for ACTIV2 Clinical Trials for Monoclonal Antibodies and other treatments.
What You Can Do:
- Engage with Your Healthcare Provider. If they don’t have protocols and referral system in place, they need to address this.
- Check the HHS Therapeutics Distribution Directory Data Hub. This provides an interactive map & directory of health centers that have received monoclonal antibodies and are willing to publicize that. It does not mean that they have supplies now, but this is a great place to start.
- If you don’t find a site in your state there, engage with your Public Health Department. Every state is receiving allocations of these treatments, and it is their job to ensure there is an efficient and effective system so that citizens who can benefit from these treatments have access to them.
- Call the Eli Lilly Hotline. They also have an option for patients where they can tell you what healthcare providers in your area have received shipments.
4. Be Vigilant and When In Doubt, Test
Of course, you should continue to exercise maximum caution to prevent infection with social distancing, face masks and hand washing. But if you are exposed, you need to test proactively to ensure that if you are infected, you will find out quickly. What you know and what action you take rapidly can make all the difference!
What You Can Do:
- Know the locations and options for rapid testing in your area. Most state public health departments have arrangements and centers established. This HHS Web site maintains a directory of information and links for testing by State.
- Get an At-Home Test Kit. There are new ones recently certified, and more coming. This CDC site has more information.
- Know the Symptoms for COVID-19
- CDC Covid Symptoms information page also has a step-by-step self-checker.
- Get a Pulse Oximeter. Really, you should not wait for symptoms to develop – if you are at risk, and exposed, contact your healthcare provider and seek treatment. But a pulse oximeter, like a thermometer, can help give you warning signs of a severe course of disease – in this case your blood oxygen levels.
For Everyone Else
Just because you are not in an at-risk group does not mean that you may not get sick – or even die – from COVID-19. There are a huge range of responses even in young, healthy people for reasons not fully understood. Given current limited supplies, monoclonal antibodies need to be reserved for those at highest risk. But if your turn out to be one of the unlucky few without a known risk profile or vulnerability, but nonetheless develop severe COVID-19, monoclonal antibodies are still the best available treatment.
But, you must be identified and treated early. So, for anyone that wants to be proactive about their health, all of the steps above apply. Knowledge is power, and action is the best antidote to fear. So, develop and have your plan. And if you are infected, and following instructions to quarantine at home, you can be proactive in monitoring your condition and alerting your healthcare provider early if you are experiencing a progression of symptoms that indicates severity.