RICHMOND, Ind. — There is a lot of buzz around the progress of several COVID-19 vaccines, but any vaccine that gets approved won't be available for most Americans until late spring or summer.
So what are the treatment options available to people right now and what do you have to do to qualify for each one?
“None of us want to be masking or distancing or keeping our holiday gathering small,” said Dr. Thomas Huth, Reid Health’s vice president of medical affairs.
But that’s just what Huth will be doing this holiday season.
For the past several weeks, Reid Health has been at 90 percent capacity, with 60 hospital admissions a day. A third of those admissions are patients with COVID-19.
Huth is hoping a new antibody treatment from Eli Lilly can reduce the number of hospitalizations because of the virus.
In the past two weeks, Reid has received 70 doses of a monoclonal antibody product called bamlanivimab.
The name may be hard to say, but what it does, essentially, is block the virus from attaching to human cells.
“By blocking that attachment, it cannot get into the cells and take over the cells to make more virus,” explained Huth.
President Donald Trump received a similar treatment when he contracted the virus.
So far, Reid has used 17 of its 70 doses.
The treatment is given through IV and takes about three hours from start to finish.
“It is intended for people that have active COVID-19 infections but are not yet sick enough to be in the hospital,” Huth explained.
The goal is to treat those people before it gets to that, possibly preventing them from needing to go into the hospital in the first place.
People who are 65 years or older or are morbidly obese get automatic approval for the treatment.
“Since age over 65 and body mass index over 35 are the groups that not only benefited most in the pre-approval studies, but are also the groups that most commonly require hospitalization in our experience, we make the approval automatic for them in our order system,” said Huth. “For others, we approve them on an individual basis to be sure they qualify."
That would include patients with other chronic diseases like diabetes, heart or lung problems.
“We want to target it to people who we know from the data and evidence basis, that they can benefit the most,” said Huth. “We want to make it more widely accessible, but we need to have more access to supplies to do that."
He said he hopes more doses could arrive next week.