DECEMBER 8, 2021 – The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) of Northfield Hospital + Clinics is providing monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19, in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Health. The treatment is given through injections or infusion to help patients who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and who are at high risk for progression to serious symptoms or for needing hospital care.
Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) coordinates treatment; patients cannot schedule directly with a hospital or clinic.
The treatment must be given during the first ten days of symptoms.
“Vaccination is still the most important thing people can do to reduce their risk of COVID-19 infection,” says Dr. Jennifer Fischer, Medical Director of NH+C’s EMS. “But once a person with significant risk factors has a positive COVID-19 test result, monoclonal antibody treatment can make an enormous difference in reducing the severity of illness or eliminating the need for hospital care.”
Monoclonal antibody treatment (mAb) is different from a COVID-19 vaccine. A vaccine triggers the body’s natural immune response, but can take weeks to develop enough antibodies to prevent infection. mAb treatment accelerates the body’s own protective mechanisms by introducing lab-grown antibodies.
In Minnesota, all mAb treatment is currently coordinated through MDH, whose screening tool gathers information about the timing of a positive test result, the severity of symptoms, and a person’s risk factors – then assigns eligible patients to a hospital or clinic for treatment, based on zip code. Patients register on MDH’s website, and eligible patients are contacted to schedule treatment.
“Our mAb clinic is one of only a few in the area, and we’ve treated patients from north of the Twin Cities to southern Minnesota,” says Brian Edwards, EMS Chief at NH+C. “Our paramedics administer the injections or infusions, and we have immediate access to the hospital Emergency Department if any complications arise.”
Once a patient is verified as eligible for mAb treatment and assigned to NH+C, the patient experience is fast and efficient. Upon arrival, patients are sanitized and masked, asked health screening questions, and have their vital signs checked before receiving the mAb injections or infusion. The injections take about 5 minutes to give, and an infusion around 30 minutes. Patients are then monitored for one hour to ensure that there are no reactions or complications.
“Enabling patients to recover from COVID at home is very important,” notes Dr. Fischer. “Hospitals all across the state, including ours, are full, and the number of COVID cases makes the delivery of other vital care and treatment much more difficult.
“We have clear evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccination,” Dr Fischer adds. “Current data shows that only 3.15% of vaccinated people in Minnesota experience break-through COVID infections, and this is largely due to waning immunity from immunizations given early in the pandemic. A booster shot will greatly decrease the chance of a breakthrough case. Only about one in a thousand vaccinated people are hospitalized for treatment, and only two in ten thousand vaccinated people die from COVID.
“It is clear that avoiding illness is a better strategy than relying on mAb treatment, even though that treatment can be very effective,” Dr. Fischer concludes. “The physicians and staff of Northfield Hospital urge everyone to get vaccinated, and get your booster – for your sake and ours.”
For more information about monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19, or to take the screening survey after a positive test result, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website.