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Monoclonal antibodies do not prevent COVID infections, doctors say

Monoclonal antibodies are made in a lab and are used to treat COVID only after a person is infected with the virus

ST. LOUIS — It's a treatment for COVID-19 that has become so popular some states are rationing it – monoclonal antibodies.

But doctors say there is another option that takes a fraction of the time to administer, can actually prevent the disease in the first place and is based on the same science of how our bodies work – the COVID vaccines.

"Antibodies are natural molecules that all of us have in our blood," said Dr. Bruce Hall, chief quality officer for BJC HealthCare and physician with Washington University. "Every human being has thousands and thousands of antibodies in our blood normally.”

It is antibodies the body needs to attack viruses like COVID-19 and prevent them from infecting cells, Hall explained.

Monoclonal antibodies are made in a lab and are used to treat COVID only after a person is infected with the virus.

The goal, Hall said, is to keep COVID patients from getting so sick that they need to be hospitalized.

"We know that they do work, every time we treat twelve (patients) we keep one person from getting really, really, really sick and needing to be in the hospital," said Hall.

Under FDA rule monoclonal antibodies are reserved for high-risk patients who have contracted COVID.

And like the vaccines before they were fully approved, monoclonal antibodies currently have emergency use authorization from the FDA.

The treatment is not preventative or a substitution for the vaccine.

Hall explained vaccines also use antibodies to fight COVID by training our bodies to make antibodies and prevent infection.

"So, if somebody is thinking in their head that they are going to rely on this instead of getting a vaccine, it's just unfortunately, it's the wrong way to think about this," said Hall.

"The choice is 95 or 98 or 99% effectiveness to keep you from getting sick at all, or you get sick and we'll do our best to keep it from getting severe," he said. "It's just not a tradeoff that would otherwise make sense."

Hall said the antibodies you get from the monoclonal treatment don't last like the ones our bodies make when we're vaccinated.

As for the supply of monoclonal antibodies in Missouri, doctors said they are watching it but so far we are not running out.


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