A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Monoclonal antibody treatment, ‘alternative to vaccine’ for the unvaccinated, is in short supply

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

People who are hoping to use monoclonal antibody treatment instead of getting the COVID-19 vaccine may soon find it more difficult to obtain that alternative to vaccination due to action by the federal government.

Photos from CDC

Gov. Andy Beshear said the federal government announced a change in the way COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments will be distributed among states due to supply shortages and extraordinary demand across the country.

Health care providers will no longer be able to order the treatments directly. Instead, state governments will supervise the distribution of a capped number of treatments delivered to them each week.

“I have a concern that some Kentuckians who are hesitant about the vaccine are placing faith in monoclonal antibodies,” the governor said. “What this shortage ought to tell you is that if you’re unvaccinated and you get really sick, not only might there not be a bed in the hospital for you because they are so full, but that monoclonal antibody treatment might not be there for you either. That thing you’re counting on might not be available. What is available, and there are no supply issues at all, are these safe and effective vaccines.”

Monoclodal antibody

State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack says monoclonal antibodies are synthetic, laboratory-created antibodies. They give patients a temporary immune boost, ideally helping people who are already sick have a milder disease, but do not teach a patient’s body how to create its own antibodies.

“Monoclonal antibodies are an important tool, but we have another alternative: vaccinations,” Stack said. “Vaccines prime your immune system to create natural antibodies that your own body will produce to create a natural immune response that then can protect you for at least eight months or more,” said Dr. Stack. “It’s a lot easier to get vaccinated than to get monoclonal antibodies.”

During the week ending Sept. 7, 2021, 3,642 treatment courses of monoclonal antibodies were used in Kentucky. As of Sept. 7, Kentucky hospitals have 9,363 monoclonal antibody treatment courses on hand.

Currently, monoclonal antibody treatments are available at 139 locations across Kentucky.

Despite the national shortage of the treatments, the governor said his administration will continue to do everything in its power to get available monoclonal antibodies to as many Kentucky health care facilities as possible.

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