CHI Health St. Elizabeth gives nearly 1,000 monoclonal antibody infusions, helping prevent at least 65 hospitalizations or deaths
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Local hospital systems have been fighting COVID-19 for nearly two years. In that time, there’s been a lot of innovation, from new COVID-19 vaccines, to anti-viral pills and more.
Doctors said something that’s been helping for about a year now, are monoclonal antibody infusions.
Monoclonal antibodies are an emergency use authorized drug allocated to hospitals, like CHI Health St. Elizabeth, by the state.
“They are made in a lab, they’re a protein that looks like your body’s own immune system and work in the same way,” Emily Mannschreck, pharmacy director for St. Elizabeth said. “They’re basically a booster for your own immune system.”
CHI Health has given out 3,776 monoclonal antibody infusions across it’s Nebraska and Iowa hospitals. One of those, was to Jo Lewis, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 30, 2020.
“It started with my neck feeling very stiff and sore,” Lewis said. “I had headaches, then I could feel a tightness in my chest.”
Lewis saw her doctor and a few days later visited the CHI Health St. Elizabeth infusion center for a monoclonal antibody infusion. CHI Health St. Elizabeth has given 973 such infusions in Lincoln alone.
Emily Mannschreck, pharmacy director for St. Elizabeth, said the treatment is recommended for high risk COVID-19 patients.
“People greater than age 65, obesity, underlying medical conditions like diabetes, asthma, COPD, lung diseases, pregnancy is a very high risk,” Mannschreck said.
Lewis said after the antibodies were given through an IV, she started feeling better almost immediately.
“That next day, and I don’t do this but I was doing push-ups like a marine,” Lewis said. “I don’t even do push-ups.”
She said she continued to quarantine but spent her time locked in her bedroom cleaning and working, something she said she wouldn’t have been able to do without the infusion.
“It did it’s job, it did it extremely well,” Lewis said.
Mannschreck said that’s the goal of using monoclonal antibodies.
“So maybe instead of 10 days of nasty symptoms, it’ll be seven,” Mannschreck said.
Experts said for every 15 people with COVID who get a monoclonal antibody infusion, at least one of them will be prevented from an emergency room visit, hospitalization or death. This means in Lincoln, at least 65 people have avoided a serious COVID-19 case, and across CHI, 251 people.
Lewis believes she could be one of them.
“I think it saved me, potentially. Nobody will know for sure but it really did help me from getting any worse,” Lewis said.
Monoclonal antibody infusions work best when given in the first few days of a positive COVID-19 test. If a patient tests positive and falls into one of the high risk categories, Mannschreck recommends talking to doctors about an infusion as soon as possible. They’re now being given at Bryan Health and hospitals across the state.
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