Last year the US decided to invest 18.5 billion into vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, leading to success with several candidates after a year. Despite the misleading name of Operation Warp Speed, having leadership for the vaccine team made a huge difference in the success of vaccines by utilizing research systems already in place, among other things.
The same amount of investment was not put into research for actual treatments of the disease COVID-19. Most of the 8.2 billion spent went to monoclonal antibodies, some for remdesivir, others proved hydroxychloroquine was not helpful. We do have better treatments than a year ago, but often they are not used until someone is seriously ill. All of our eggs have been riding on the basket of vaccination, which seemed reasonable except for the threat from the new strains that the vaccines may not be as effective against. But for now they are working and studies now show that, at least the Astra Zeneca, and maybe others, reduce transmission which will help slow down the new strains. Immunizations are now more important than ever and more are now able to access them. Which is a relief.
The good news on the therapeutic front is that monoclonal antibodies work to prevent illness, especially when given as a combination of antibodies early in the illness. It is given via IV infusion and so far people have had a difficult actually receiving the treatment. (Former presidents and his cronies excluded of course).
Now comes news that giving it to someone after exposure (post-exposure prophylaxis) works to prevent disease. If someone receives the cocktail after a known exposure, they do not develop symptoms. This is exciting news for those are at high risk for severe illness or death. It can also help protect family members who are caring for a COVID-19 patient so that they are getting high risk exposure. The system just needs to make it easier to get the treatment.
The monoclonal antibodies will also be an option for people with compromised immune systems who are at risk for severe disease, and for others who are unable to get vaccinated due to risks of the vaccine. But again finding out how to get the treatments has been a challenge.
Wash you hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and if you can’t get a vaccine, keep in mind monoclonal antibodies as a treatment if you get exposed.
And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.