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Free access to monoclonal antibodies for high-risk Massachusetts coronavirus patients

An employee draws up a syringe with the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease at vaccination bus in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Germany battles rising numbers of coronavirus infections. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)
An employee draws up a syringe with the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease at vaccination bus in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Germany battles rising numbers of coronavirus infections. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)
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People at high risk for serious coronavirus infections who have been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 can now find free access to monoclonal antibody treatment at three state-run mobile sites, Gov. Charlie Baker announced.

“These mobile sites enable individuals with early COVID-19 or who have been exposed to COVID-19 to be treated quickly and safely with monoclonal antibody infusion,” said Acting Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke. “While the best protection against COVID-19 is vaccination, these therapies can help prevent hospitalization and severe illness for infected or exposed high-risk individuals.”

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-created antibodies that mimic those naturally generated by the body to fight viruses and can help boost the immune response. The therapies have been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of disease and keeping COVID-19-positive individuals from being hospitalized, officials said.

The new state-run mobile clinics have the capacity to treat a combined 500 patients per week. Two of the clinics are already running in Fall River and Holyoke, where medics began administering monoclonal antibody treatment to patients on Nov. 22. A third clinic will open in Everett on Dec. 3.

The mobile clinic sites can be relocated easily based on demand and officials pointed out they are ready to be deployed to provide monoclonal antibodies in nursing homes, assisted living residences, and congregate care settings that have been hard-hit by coronavirus. Massachusetts residents can now receive monoclonal antibody treatment at 32 publicly available locations. A map of sites can be found using the state’s Monoclonal Antibody Therapy Locator.

Texas-based emergency management company Gothams is operating the mobile clinics in partnership with the Department of Public Health.

The cost of operating the mobile clinics was not immediately known. But officials said treatment is provided at no cost to the patient and offered regardless of immigration status or health insurance.

A similar program in Florida for 25 state-run monoclonal antibody sites has cost $244.8 million since August, according to a Miami Herald report. State lawmakers there have earmarked another $634.3 million in case the state ends up needing more medications for a future coronavirus surge.

The money is reimbursable by federal authorities.

Monoclonal antibodies are administered through a single intravenous infusion into a patient’s arm during a process that takes 20 to 30 minutes, followed by an hour of patient monitoring. Officials say “the one-time therapy is highly effective in neutralizing the virus and preventing symptoms from worsening,” if administered within 10 days of onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

COVID-positive or exposed patients age 12 and older at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness are eligible to receive monoclonal antibody treatment, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization. A referral from a health care provider is required.

Cooke encouraged people with questions about whether this treatment is right for them to discuss it with their health care providers.

For more information about accessing this treatment, visit Mass.gov.