Contributed by St. Bernard Parish Hospital
Research has shown vaccination is the best protection from hospitalization and severe illness caused by Covid-19. With the surge of the Delta variant and the newly discovered Omicron variant, vaccination, including a booster if eligible, is the key to stopping community spread, ending the pandemic.
The booster shot is intended to “boost” the initial vaccine series’ long-term protection. A booster shot will help strengthen protection against severe disease or complications from severe disease due to Covid-19. The Louisiana Department of Health has approved Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine booster shots for anyone 18 years or older meeting the following criteria:
• Completed the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series six or more months ago
• Received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine two or more months ago Eligible individuals may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose. Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received, and others may prefer to get a different booster. If a patient prefers to receive a booster dose that is different from their original Covid-19 vaccine series, federal and state regulatory agencies support this choice.
While vaccination remains the most effective and highest recommended prevention against Covid-19, St. Bernard Parish Hospital doctors have seen great success with the use of monoclonal antibody therapy in early disease.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses and are given to help patients before they can mount an immune response. In other words, they are designed to provide you with passive immunity to Covid-19 for a short period of time.
When you become infected or are vaccinated against a disease, your body naturally produces antibodies to give you immunity.
However, that typically takes weeks. Monoclonal antibodies are ideally administered within the first three to four days of the onset of symptoms and have been shown to be most effective when given in the first 10 days.
The treatment, under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is available in the outpatient setting by infusion or by injection — not by mouth. Subcutaneous injection, offered at St. Bernard Parish Hospital, is used as an alternative when infusion is not feasible or would cause a delay to treatment. Administration takes about an hour. Monoclonal antibody therapy has been approved for use in patients 12 and older and in both vaccinated and unvaccinated patients with mild-to-moderate Covid-19 symptoms that doctors feel will become more severe. It is not authorized for patients who are already hospitalized due to Covid-19.
While the results are encouraging, reducing hospitalization or death in non-hospitalized Covid patients by 70%, health care providers still recommend vaccination as a first and best defense. Monoclonal antibody therapy is not a substitute for vaccination. In fact, patients who receive monoclonal antibodies should get a Covid-19 vaccine 90 days after treatment.
Again, vaccination is the best defense against Covid-19. However, if you do contract Covid-19, talk to your health care provider early in your diagnosis to find out whether monoclonal antibodies are the appropriate course of therapy for you.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is available at St. Bernard Parish Hospital Monday through Friday, by appointment only. Patients must have a referral from a physician to receive this treatment. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 504-826-9500. Covid vaccines and boosters are also available. Make your appointment online at MyOchsner.org or by calling 844-888-2772.