EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) — El Paso hospitals will soon have access to a new line of defense in the local fight against the virus. The region will soon receive a shipment of the Eli Lilly & Company monoclonal antibody therapy, also known as bamlanivimab.
The Texas Department of State Health Services allocated shipments of the therapy to hospitals throughout the state. The therapy is being provided at no cost through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The state said the therapy has shown to prevent hospitalizations among some patients who receive it prior to getting very sick. If the therapy works for patients in the Borderland, it could provide necessary relief for local hospitals as strain continues on the region’s healthcare system.
A local infectious disease expert said antibody treatments work similarly to a vaccine in the sense they provide antibodies against a virus. He warns these antibodies may not be long-lasting and patients who receive such therapies may also require a vaccine too for immunity.
“Antibody protection really happens at the early stages of the infection, so if you're going to get this treatment, it's going to have to be within the first few days of becomming symptomatic or infected,” said Dr. Armando Meza, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. “Only patients who are at particularly high risk of having severe complications will be the ones who will be given these antibodies.”
Meza said that’s because the goal of the therapy is to minimize the number of patients who require hospitalization. If a patient will likely recover on their own at home, they should not expect to be given the therapy.
“The intent of the antibodies is to actually help with the hospitalization rate and those high-risk patients, to make them less likely to end up in the hospital,” Meza said. “That’s why people who are not high-risk may not benefit from getting the antibodies.”
The shipments are being sent out to various regions in the state based on how many new cases and hospitalizations a region has. El Paso is set to receive 776 doses. A representative from the Texas Department of State Health Services said some hospitals received their first shipments on Monday.
ABC-7 is still working to confirm how many doses each hospital in our region could receive.