High Risk for Progression to Severe COVID-19

If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and meet certain eligibility criteria, monoclonal antibodies can significantly lessen your risk of hospitalization and death. They can also be used to prevent infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 if you are not fully vaccinated and had a significant exposure.

In a joint effort, Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services, Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center and Chaffee County Public Health have established a pilot program running through Dec. 12 in anyone who meets the criteria (see below) can show up for free monoclonal antibody therapy. 

If you think you meet the criteria and want to get monoclonal antibodies, come to the blue tent near the emergency room during the hours listed below. No appointment is needed, and you do not need an order from your healthcare provider. 

Please wear a mask and take your insurance cards with you. We may bill your insurance a small fee to cover the cost of equipment and labor, but there is no charge to you. Uninsured people are welcome and there is no charge to those without insurance. 

Through Dec. 12, the hours are:

Sunday-Thursday: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Friday-Saturday: 1-3:30 p.m.

Q: What are monoclonal antibodies?

A: Monoclonal antibodies are a treatment for COVID-19 that can lessen the risk of death and hospitalization by 70-80 percent. Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that are grown in a lab. They can restore, enhance or mimic the immune system’s attack on cells. Monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 may block the virus that causes COVID-19 from attaching to human cells, enabling the virus to reproduce and cause harm. Monoclonal antibodies may also neutralize a virus.

Q: Who is eligible for monoclonal antibodies?

A: There are two ways a person can be eligible or monoclonal antibody therapy: 

You tested positive for COVID-19 and are high risk (see accompanying chart) or

You were exposed to COVID-19 and meet the same criteria. 

Q: I have had COVID-19 for two weeks; am I still eligible for monoclonal antibodies?

A: No. Monoclonal antibodies must be given within 10 days of symptom onset. 

Q: I tested positive for COVID-19, but I feel fine. Should I still consider monoclonal antibodies?

A: If you are in a high-risk category, yes, you should consider monoclonal antibodies, regardless of symptoms.

Q: What is the science behind monoclonal antibodies?

A: In a clinical trial of more than 4,000 people with mild to moderate COVID-19, monoclonal antibodies demonstrated a 70 percent reduction in COVID-19-related hospitalization or all-cause death compared to placebo. 

For prevention of getting COVID-19 in those not fully vaccinated, after having significant exposure to a known COVID-19-positive person, monoclonal antibodies decreased the risk of getting COVID-19 by up to 81 percent.

Q: Are monoclonal antibodies FDA approved?

A: Monoclonal antibodies are administered under an FDA emergency use authorization.

Q: What are the risks of getting monoclonal antibodies?

A: Side effects may include allergic reactions and hypersensitivity, redness and itching at the site of injection and bruising. Side effects were noted in about 0.2 percent (2 out of 1,000 people) of those receiving an IV infusion. These are not all the possible side effects of monoclonal antibodies. Serious and unexpected side effects may happen.

Q: How are they given?

A: Monoclonal antibodies are given by either a subcutaneous injection or via an IV infusion. 

Q: How long does getting monoclonal antibodies take? 

A: Between 90 minutes and two hours. IV (intravenous) infusions are given over 30-60 minutes. Subcutaneous (under the skin) injections take about 10 minutes. All patients receiving monoclonal antibodies must stay on site for an additional 60-minute observation period following administration. 

Q: Do monoclonal antibodies contain tissue from aborted fetuses or fetal stem cells?

A: No. However, some monoclonal antibodies may have been tested on fetal stem cell lines. 

Q: Does this replace the need to get vaccinated?

A: No. Monoclonal antibodies are not a substitute for vaccination. Vaccination is an important part in protecting yourself from COVID-19.  However, one should wait approximately 90 days to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as it may suppress the effect of the vaccine – or for at least 30 days after receiving monoclonal antibodies for post-exposure prophylaxis for COVID-19.

Q: How do I get them?

A: Between now and Dec. 12, just show up at the blue tent in the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center Emergency Department parking lot and call the phone number listed on the signs. Please do not come into the blue tent or the hospital unless you are specifically instructed to do so. No appointment is needed, and you do not need an order from your doctor is needed. 

Through Dec. 12, the hours are:

Sunday-Thursday: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Friday-Saturday: 1-3:30 p.m.

Do I need to make an appointment?

A: No, just show up during the times and dates listed above. 

Q: Does it cost anything? 

A: There is no cost to you if you receive them at the blue tent. We may bill your insurance an administration fee to cover labor and supplies, but you will not receive a bill. If you are uninsured, you will not receive a bill for monoclonal antibodies. 

Q: Do I need a doctor’s order to get monoclonal antibodies?

A: No. A screening will be performed at the tent prior to anyone receiving monoclonal antibodies. 

Q: Do I have to be a legal U.S. resident to receive monoclonal antibodies?

A: No. 

Q: I tested positive on a home test; can use I that to get monoclonal antibodies? 

A: Yes. You do not need to take proof of being COVID-19 positive with you. 

Q: What can I expect after getting monoclonal antibody treatments? 

A: Most people report no side effects, and within 24 hours of receiving monoclonal antibodies their symptoms of COVID-19 diminish and they feel better. 

Q: Can I get a COVID-19 test at the blue tent?

A: No. Unfortunately, due to time and labor constraints, testing is not available at this site. Although we may test those seeking post-exposure prophylaxis before administering monoclonal antibodies. 

Q: Does my vaccination status (vaccinated or not) change my eligibility for monoclonal antibodies? 

A: No. If you have COVID-19 and meet the criteria for being high risk for COVID-19 disease progression, it does not matter if you are vaccinated or not. Post-exposure prophylaxis is only available for use for adult and pediatric persons (age 12 or older and weighing 88 pounds or more) who are at high risk of clinical progression or are not fully vaccinated (or not expected to mount an adequate immune response to complete SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, and have been exposed to an individual infected with SARS-CoV-2. 

Q: If I have COVID-19 and get monoclonal antibodies, do I still have to stay in isolation?

A: Yes. Monoclonal antibodies prevent disease progression and may lessen your symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19 to others for up to 10 days after symptom onset, and you must continue to isolate until the end of your isolation period.

Q: I have been placed on quarantine following an exposure to a person with COVID-19. Does receiving monoclonal antibodies allow me to get out of quarantine early?

A: No. You must remain in quarantine for the period you were instructed. 

Q: Is this authorized for use in children?

A: Yes, but you must be at least 12 years of age to receive monoclonal antibodies. 

Q: What can I do if I still have questions?

A: Consult with your local health care provider. 

Brian Behn is Chaffee County Emergency Medical Services operations manager.

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