Antibody treatment now available to new virus patients in North County

Coronavirus

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — Palomar Health has been tapped by the County of San Diego to manage the administration of a promising COVID-19 treatment that stops the virus from progressing to its more severe or even deadly form. 

The treatment is done through the infusion of monoclonal antibodies. The use of these lab-made antibodies is not new — they’re also used to treat cancer — but this adaptation for COVID-19 is new and has shown great promise in fast-tracked clinical trials.

“If you have been diagnosed positive and there’s a likelihood that this is going to be a severe disease for you, we would love for people to come in and get the infusion treatment,” said Dr. Omar Khawaja, the chief medical officer for the medical center. 

“It actually binds to the COVID-19 particles inside your body and keeps them from being able to take hold and really affect you and spread that infection,” she explained.

But it has to be administered in the first few days of symptoms. On Wednesday, FOX 5 talked to a man named Ken. He’s 67 years old and just got an infusion after he tested positive a few days ago. 

“I ran fever of 101 for a few days and was lethargic, sleeping a lot. A little bit of a cough and tightness in my chest,” he explained

The treatment took about 16 minutes to administer intravenously, and then Ken was monitored for an hour. 

Officials say consolidating the process within one health care facility will free up ER doctors countywide. At Palomar, they can treat as many as 20 people at one time. “People are not admitted to the hospital. They’re not going into the ICU. This is a great therapy and we really need to get the message out,” Khawaja said.

Here’s what you need to know: Anyone who tests positive and is over 65 years old can self-refer, meaning calling Palomar Health or emailing to book an appointment.

Anyone who tests positive and is younger than 65 years old but has underlying conditions may also be eligible, but is asked to call their doctor first. The state picks up the tab for the medicine.

You can learn more here.

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