Sep. 18—The Alabama Department of Public Health is coordinating statewide distribution of monoclonal antibody treatment for eligible COVID-19 patients, offering a potential extra measure of care for high-risk patients who contract the Delta variant of the virus.
"The increased incidence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 has caused a substantial surge in the use of monoclonal antibody products," the department said in a release this week, adding that monoclonal antibody treatment has demonstrated effectiveness in "higher-risk people" who have contracted the Delta variant by reducing "the amount of coronavirus in your body, lessening symptoms and the likelihood you would need to be hospitalized."
The treatments are rolling out nationwide under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, though the emergent and potentially high demand has prompted HHS to hand over distribution of the treatments, at least for the time being, to the states themselves.
"The Alabama Department of Public Health will identify which sites in the state will receive the product and the amount each of the multiple sites receives," the department explained. "HHS will continue to monitor product utilization rates, COVID-19 case burden, and the overall availability of monoclonal antibodies to determine when a shift back to the normal direct ordering process may be possible."
Judy Smith, the state health department's Area 2 administrator who oversees the seven-county ADPH region that includes Cullman County, stressed that an ounce of prevention — by way of the vaccine — is overwhelmingly preferable to the monoclonal treatment's follow-up use, which is ordered by a physician only for eligible at-risk patients.
"The people who are at the greatest need are the ones who will be getting it — and their condition has to reach that point," Smith told The Times. "That's typically something you want to prevent in the first place. We urge people to take the vaccine."
In order for monoclonal antibody treatment to be effective, said the department, it must be administered early on in a COVID-19 diagnosis. "If you test positive for COVID-19 or are a close contact to a positive case, call your healthcare provider immediately to ask about treatment," the department advised. "Treatment must be provided within 10 days of exposure, symptom onset, or within 10 days of date tested if positive and asymptomatic."
In keeping with the overall goal of delivering the treatments to those most at risk, health care providers statewide have been advised "to prioritize patients based on their risk of progression to severe COVID disease," said ADPH. "Treatment should be given as soon as possible (within 10 days) after a close contact to a positive case of COVID-19, to patients who tested positive, and to individuals who are at high risk for disease progression to severe COVID-19."
HHS switched to the state-coordinated distribution for the treatments earlier this week, an effort to "help ensure the consistent availability of these critical products for current and future patients in all geographic areas of the country," according to the department.
To learn more about monoclonal antibody treatment, as well as view detailed guidelines on how the treatments are being prioritized for Alabama residents, visit the Alabama Department of Public Health's landing page online at thttps://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/index.html.
You can also locate a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in your area by texting your zip code to 438829, or by visiting vaccines.gov online.