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New therapy for COVID-19 expected to reduce hospitalizations

By Sudhiti Naskar

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Monoclonal antibody therapy, a new and effective therapeutic for COVID-19, is here in Nevada. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in mild to moderate cases of the virus back in November 2020.

David Wuest, executive secretary of the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy, said pharmacies all over the Silver State are providing this new treatment to fight COVID-19. Nevada has made available two FDA-approved monoclonal antibody therapy medications administered through infusion for COVID-19 patients in high-risk categories. The therapy can be given to patients 12 years and older within 10 days of testing positive and where the possibility of severe sickness including lung, kidney and heart damage is observed. 

“These products should not be confused with the COVID vaccines. Rather, they are a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies,” said Wuest. 

These antibodies are laboratory-created proteins which can restore, enhance or mimic the immune system’s attack on the virus and work as a type of immunotherapy to boost the body’s immune system and attack viral cells. 

Wuest said that treatment of certain patients with monoclonal antibodies might prevent hospitalizations and reduce the severity of illness. 

When infused early on in case of an infection among high-risk patients, the treatment can reduce hospitalization rates from between  4% to 15%, said Wuest, translating into a 70% reduction in new hospital admissions.

“These infusion systems are most effective when symptoms are mild to moderate, and they are able to keep the virus from attacking the body,” said Wuest. 

Monoclonal antibodies have been deemed safe and effective in clinical trials. The monoclonal treatments have been provided and paid for by the government, said Wuest. However patients that meet the criteria must still get a referral from their doctors to receive the infusion treatment. 

A handful of infusion sites are available in northern Nevada, including Renown Health, Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Northern Nevada Medical Center. Nevadans can find clinics close to their ZIP codes at https://covid.infusioncenter.org/ 

Statewide COVID-19 situation

The COVID-19 situation in Nevada continues to show a downward trend. As of today, Nevada has logged 279,146 total COVID-19 cases. 

The state’s Task Force is also reporting 1,011 daily new cases on a 14-day-rolling-average, down from about 1,700 in the beginning of January. In Washoe County, new cases per day have come down to 106 on a 14-day-rolling-average.

Nevada has now completed a cumulative 2,496,070 molecular tests since the beginning of COVID-19. 

Test positivity rate over the last 14 days is 17.4%. 

Washoe County's testing data as of Feb. 1, 2021. Source: NV Health Response COVID-19 Dashboard
Washoe County’s testing data as of Feb. 1, 2021. Source: NV Health Response COVID-19 Dashboard

The Nevada Hospital Association reported that the state is continuing to see a downward hospitalization trend. Currently 1,247 people are hospitalized for COVID-19, of whom 1,057 are confirmed to have COVID-19, and 190 are suspected.  

Vaccination

Candice McDaniel, Health Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Child, Family and Community Wellness,  said that a reported total of 253,159 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were injected in the arms of Nevadans as of Jan. 31. More than 37,000 second doses have been administered so far. 

McDaniel referred to the fact that Nevada has received a lower per captia  allocation of vaccine from the federal government compared to other states. 

Nevadans can visit https://www.immunizenevada.org/nv-covid-fighter to get relevant information on how to get vaccinated in their county, and how they can help their community in disease mitigation.

Many in the community that had the first dose of vaccine have been concerned about the availability of the second dose. McDaniel assured Nevadans that the second dose of vaccine will be available for both Moderna and Pfizer.

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