Antibody Infusion Offers High-Risk Patients Immunity Boost to Fight COVID-19

While the vaccine remains the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19, antibody infusions can help lessen the chance of severe illness and hospitalization for those who contract the virus.Your body naturally makes antibodies to fight infection. But with the newness of the coronavirus, your body may not recognize the disease and could lack the antibodies needed to fight infection. Additionally, underlying health conditions could complicate how quickly your body makes antibodies to fight the disease.

An antibody infusion (also called monoclonal antibodies or mAb treatment), when delivered within the first few days, can give you a temporary boost to help prevent serious infection from COVID-19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization for antibody infusions to be used within 10 days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. The infusion can be used for those who are unvaccinated and those who have been vaccinated or received one dose of a two-dose vaccine.

If you test positive for the virus and qualify for an antibody infusion, it is important to receive it sooner rather than later, as COVID-19 can progress quickly and the antibody infusion typically loses its effectiveness once symptoms worsen.

“Really, the earlier you get it, the better,” says Jonathan Pinsky, MD, medical director of infection control at Edward Hospital, adding that the effectiveness of an antibody infusion diminishes each day you wait  after the onset of symptoms. “If you wait, the virus could worsen and it may be too late.”

Through June 9, 2021, Edward-Elmhurst Health has given 1,010 antibody infusions with only a 0.1 percent rate of subsequent hospitalizations, says Dr. Pinsky. Based on hospitalization records from Edward-Elmhurst Health, patients who contracted COVID-19 but did not receive an antibody infusion were 20 times more likely to be hospitalized or re-visit the emergency room than those who had received the infusion, adds Dr. Pinsky.

Antibody infusions are targeted to individuals with certain conditions that may put them at higher risk for complications from COVID-19. Your doctor may recommend an antibody infusion if you:

  • Are over the age of 65
  • Are obese (BMI of 25 or above for ages 18 and older, or BMI above the 85th percentile for age and gender for ages 12-17)
  • Have diabetes, chronic kidney disease, certain heart conditions (such as congenital heart disease or hypertension), chronic lung disease (such as COPD, asthma, interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis or pulmonary hypertension), sickle cell disease, immunosuppressive disease or neurodevelopmental disorders (such as cerebral palsy)
  • Are dependent on mechanical medical technology (such as a tracheostomy)

Though antibody infusions are mostly given intravenously, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that an injection form of the antibody treatment made by Regeneron has won FDA approval in the hopes of making the treatment easier to administer and more accessible. Other forms of antibody treatment are in development stages.

If you receive an antibody infusion, you should plan on spending about two hours at the clinic where you receive your infusion. Though the infusion takes less than 30 minutes to complete, you will be asked to stay for a short time afterward for observation.

Your physician will also follow up with you after your infusion to track your symptoms and recovery. At home, you will be asked to do daily checks of your temperature and oxygen levels (using a pulse oximeter), and report any changes in your health.

Be aware that if you receive an antibody infusion and have not yet been vaccinated, you will need to wait 90 days before you can receive your first dose of a vaccine. If you have received your first dose of a two-dose of vaccine and require an antibody infusion before your second dose of vaccine, you also will need to wait 90 days before your second vaccine dose, says Dr. Pinsky.

Edward-Elmhurst Health now has COVID-19 vaccine appointments available to anyone in our communities age 12 and older. It is easy to schedule a vaccine appointment. You no longer need a MyChart account. Schedule your COVID-19 vaccine now.

The information in this article may change at any time due to the changing landscape of this pandemic. Read the latest on COVID-19.