No, monoclonal antibody therapy is not the same as the COVID-19 vaccine

DSHS: Patients who receive the therapy should get the vaccine after 90 days

KSAT's Trust Index explored one question we've seen online that asks if monoclonal antibody therapy is the same as the COVID-19 vaccine.

SAN ANTONIO – Texas has 15 infusion centers to help treat eligible COVID-19 patients with monoclonal antibodies before they end up in the hospital. San Antonio’s infusion center reopened on August 9 at the Freeman Coliseum. BCFS runs the facility and confirms more than 1,500 were treated with the therapy by the end of the month.

A public information officer for the nonprofit explains, “monoclonal treatment helps the immune system fight the coronavirus, but it is not a substitute for COVID-19 vaccination.”

The vaccine is meant to be administered before someone is infected with the coronavirus. While it takes weeks to become fully operational, the vaccine does offer protection. Most COVID-19 patients who end up in the hospital are not vaccinated.

The CEO of Peterson Health, Cory Edmondson, oversees Peterson Regional Medical Center in Kerrville and explains the antibody treatment is only administered to high-risk patients who already have the virus.

Edmondson describes the risk factors to include, “people over 65, overweight, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, weakened immune system.”

Patients hoping to use the therapy must act fast. A doctor’s note is needed before the treatment can be administered. The therapy must also be given within 10 days of the onset of symptoms or a positive test.

A public information officer for BCFS says the goal is to “schedule appointments in 24 to 48 hours based on patient volume” at the Freeman Coliseum.

If an eligible COVID-19 patient can meet that 10-day deadline, the treatment is likely to keep the patient off a ventilator and out of the hospital.

Edmonson explains, “the therapy is to prevent hospitalizations and reduce viral loads and lessen symptom severity.”

CNN reports that protection from antibody treatments doesn’t last as long as a vaccine though.

The Texas Department of State Health Services says patients who receive the therapy should get the vaccine 90 days after treatment.

While the therapy is effective, Edmonson says, “it’s not the replacement to get the vaccine. We still strongly encourage people to get the vaccine.”

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About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray is a reporter with KSAT12 News.

Adrian Ortega is a news producer for the Nightbeat. He joined the station in 2016. Adrian helped expand the Nightbeat to a one-hour newscast on the weekend and is now producing for the Nightbeat 5 times per week. He's helped cover the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 winter storm, race and policing in SA and the Alazan-Apache Courts on the West Side.