Kootenai Health picks back up monoclonal antibody treatment after brief break

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho. — With the surge of COVID cases, a common theme has emerged: more people are getting more severe symptoms and the Delta variant is taking a toll on hospital resources locally, and nationwide. In our area, you can get one-of-a-kind treatment if you’re not vaccinated.

Monoclonal antibody treatment started here at Kootenai Health back in November. It stopped in early August, with the surge of new coronavirus hospitalizations. The health facility needed to reallocate its resources for the uptick in patients coming in. On Friday, they brought it back with the hope that it will help prevent the number of hospitalizations going forward.

“We’re really above capacity, we’ve doubled up patients in rooms, and started a surge area,” Kelley Griffith, the Executive Director for Regional Pharmacy Services within Kootenai Health said.

This is for people with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 who are at risk of getting severe symptoms. Monoclonal antibody treatment uses antibodies that are developed in a lab, which recognize a specific marker in the virus. It’s similar to what your body would naturally make to fight infection. Patients are given four separate shots under the skin and watched for an hour before they’re sent home.

With its resources tapped out, Kootenai Health is doing all it can to prevent more patients from coming in.

“This particular drug takes about 19 patients to avoid one hospitalization. So, the thought is we might be able to target some people who otherwise might end up in the hospital, that are unwilling to vaccinate, and it would help us spread our resources a little further,” Griffith explained.

Doctors said this is not an alternative to getting vaccinated.

“This will only last for about 30 days, your body will turn over these antibodies. When you have the vaccine, your body will make its own antibodies,” Griffith told us.

Kootenai Health is the only facility offering monoclonal antibody treatment within the Inland Northwest. Griffith said their leadership team has done a really good job of anticipating the needs of our community and trying to get ahead of those.

“I think we’re all really proud of it. I think we’ve been pretty proactive in our approach to COVID since the very beginning,” she said.

Governor Brad Little announced he wants to expand the resources for this treatment. Kootenai Health is working with some of its partners in the area to develop a higher throughput of monoclonal antibody clinics. There is some early planning evolving in the area but it’s too soon to tell where that’s eventually going to land.

Spokane is also working out details on how to soon offer the same treatment.

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