Tidelands Health expands monoclonal antibody COVID treatment to meet increase in demand

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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Tidelands Health is expanding capacity for monoclonal antibody treatment to meet increased demand amid the ongoing COVID-19 surge.

In November 2020, Tidelands Health became one of the first health systems in South Carolina to offer monoclonal antibody treatment for high-risk COVID-19 patients.

Now, additional infusion stations have been added to the dedicated Murrells Inlet clinic where monoclonal antibody treatment is administered on an outpatient basis, and workflows have been streamlined to allow more patients to receive the treatment each day.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off the virus that causes COVID-19. To date, Tidelands Health has administered the treatment to more than 1,000 individuals.

“It’s a manufactured protein that you inject into the person that is an antibody you ordinarily wouldn’t make if you go the vaccine or got diseased,” said Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.

Harmon said it’s an hour-long IV transfusion and then an hour of being monitored. It can only be administered within 10 days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

“You might have underlying asthma, diabetes, blood vessel disease, lungs disease, things like that,” Harmon said. “Also you need to be sick with COVID but not too sick. If you’re too sick and you’re already short of breath — have to have supplemental oxygen — then you’re not qualified for the monoclonal antibodies.”

Harmon said getting the treatment can make the difference between getting hospitalized and not getting hospitalized.

“This treatment has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization among people who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill with the COVID-19 virus,” Harmon said. “For some patients, it can be the difference between a mild course of illness and something far more severe.”

Monoclonal antibody treatment received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last year. To qualify for the treatment, an individual must be 12 or older with mild to moderate COVID-19 and at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 or hospitalization. Eligible patients must be referred by a health care provider.

“It is so effective that I really encourage anybody to consider it,” Harmon said. “Talk to your doctor if you get sick and have any composite risk factors, you need to have that discussion.”

With South Carolina now leading the nation in COVID-19 cases by population, Harmon said more people are needing the treatment. He said it can be avoided by getting vaccinated.

“Our Tidelands Health team is committed to doing everything we can to protect our community from this deadly virus,” Harmon said. “If you haven’t already done so, please get vaccinated. And if you do test positive for COVID-19, talk with your doctor about monoclonal antibody treatment and whether it’s right for you.”

Tidelands Health has administered the treatment to more than 1,000 people since opening the treatment center last year. Information on how to get the treatment can be found on the Tidelands Health website.

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