Antibodies or vaccination?
The difference between these valuable COVID-19 tools
At the beginning of November, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) publicized news that provided immense relief in the ‘hand-to-hand’ battle against coronavirus, although the final word on the efficacy of this treatment has not yet been made official and the treatment continues to be studied. The approval of emergency use of the bamlanivimab monoclonal antibodies against COVID-19 (.) was, without a doubt, one of the best news we received in 2020 along with the approval of a vaccine.
But, is it truly reliable?
How are antibodies different from vaccination?
Do they prevent COVID-19 infection?
These are questions we all ask ourselves, which is why Dr. Juan Rivera wanted to explain the best way he knows how via this video shared in his social networks.
Here, we clarify some of the main concerns.
How are antibodies different from the COVID-19 vaccine?
The vaccine should be taken before contracting COVID-19 to prevent it or to help make sure that symptoms are lessened if we do become infected.
This is achieved by introducing genetic material or proteins that stimulate our immune system to generate antibodies that defend us.
On the other hand, antibody treatment is used when someone has already contracted the virus to help their body neutralize it.
How does this antibody treatment work?
The term "monoclonal antibodies" is a bit complicated, but in simple words it is a group of synthetic proteins, created in a lab, that fulfill similar functions to the immune system that helps combat the virus. In the case of coronavirus, the bamlanivimab antibody attacks its main protein, preventing the virus from sticking to our cells and neutralizing its power. (.)
This antibody treatment is not new to modern medicine, as it has been around for about 50 years and is quite successful in the treatment of many other diseases, including some types of cancer and AIDS.
The study behind the FDA's decision showed that the viral count for patients treated with this antibody dropped considerably, resulting in only 3% of cases requiring hospitalization or a visit to the emergency room, even in the case of people at high risk for health complications. (.)
Does it work in all cases of coronavirus?
No. This treatment does not work for all patients or, at minimum, its emergency-use approval is not as broad currently. FDA guidelines say it can be used for:
People who have tested positive for the virus.
Cases considered to be mild to moderate, but at risk of complication and even hospitalization.
Children 12 years of age and older, weighing at least 88 pounds.
Adults, including patients over 65 years old who have chronic medical conditions. It is precisely this group that is the priority for use, for now.
Existing studies so far show that antibody treatment is not effective in severe cases, for patients who are already hospitalized and receiving assisted ventilation or oxygen treatment. It can worsen their condition. (.)
Can I buy this treatment at the pharmacy and take it at home?
No. The only way to obtain this treatment is through your doctor in a hospital setting, since the single dose must be administered intravenously.
This treatment is currently available in all hospitals around the country.
The transfusion takes approximately one hour. The patient then remains under observation for another 30 to 45 minutes. If all is well, the patient is released home.
Are there any adverse side effects?
Like any medication, it can have some side effects which is why the treatment is performed at a hospital under medical supervision. As of now, the side effects are less risky than the virus itself. Some examples include symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as shortness of breath, swelling, hives or decreased pressure, among others. Other symptoms common with transfusions include nausea, headache, diarrhea and vomiting.
Speed: the key factor to consider
Most importantly, if a person has symptoms of coronavirus, such as fever, muscle pain and diarrhea, testing is needed as soon as possible.
If the result is positive, ask your doctor immediately about this treatment so that they can test whether you meet the criteria for antibody use.
Why is it so important to do this as soon as possible?
Because the protocol required by the FDA in order to use this treatment on coronavirus patients has a window of time. This is not on a whim; the sooner the antibodies enter the body, the less time is given to the virus to allow reproduction, making it easier to neutralize.
The treatment also has an emergency use approval. This means that based on the information available, the FDA has recognized that the benefits of antibodies outweigh any potential risks but continue to closely monitor how the treatment is evolving.
We can rest assured that science continues to work for us at a fast pace, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In this struggle, we either row together in the same direction or we will be forced to continue to mourn the loss and deterioration of thousands more lives.
This promising news is not an excuse to relax on preventative care measures – quite the contrary. It provides us a huge ray of hope and invites us to be more responsible than ever for ourselves and for our loved ones.
Let's be healthier, together!
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