COVID therapeutics could help with next virus wave

By Mackenzi Klemann - [email protected]

LIMA — Ohioans at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 now have access to antiviral medications and other therapeutic treatments, which could help prevent some hospitalizations as Ohio is seeing a sustained increase in reported coronavirus cases.

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said last week that immunity generated by vaccines and prior infections has created a “substantial level of protection against severe illness,” noting that hospitalizations remain far below their January peak. But Vanderhoff urged the public to consider their therapeutic options too.

The treatments, which require a prescription and prompt testing, can lessen symptoms when taken early and are available to those who have been previously vaccinated or infected.

Still, Vanderhoff said that therapeutics are “not for everyone” and “shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to vaccination.”

What’s available in Lima

• Antivirals: Oral antiviral medications paxlovid and molnupiravir, which prevent the virus from replicating after a person is infected, are available in Lima by prescription to adults and children 12 and older whose underlying conditions like diabetes, obesity or asthma put them at higher risk for severe illness, regardless of the person’s vaccination status.

The antivirals must be taken within the first five days of illness, so anyone seeking treatment should get tested and talk to a doctor as soon as possible for a prescription.

• Monoclonal antibodies: The popular antibody infusions are administered via IV, generally resulting in milder symptoms.

Lima hospitals have access to Bebtelovimab, the only monoclonal antibody therapy successful against the dominant omicron subvariant B.A. 2. But early diagnosis is also needed for Bebtelovimab, which should be started within seven days of symptom onset.

• Prevention: Severely immunocompromised individuals may have access to a preventative injection known as Evusheld, which may provide up to six months of protection for those whose immune systems are less responsive to vaccines or who were unable to be vaccinated because of an adverse reaction.

But the injections are only offered to those who have not previously been infected or exposed to the virus, and a prescription is needed.

By Mackenzi Klemann

[email protected]

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