WakeMed expands access to monoclonal antibody therapy

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Katherine Wall and her whole family got COVID-19 in January before vaccines were readily available.

She said she has an underlying autoimmune disease and got really sick.

"I had trouble breathing," Wall said. "I had a high fever, terrible chest pain, really bad headache, feverish aches everywhere."

Wall contacted her doctor and got monoclonal antibody therapy at WakeMed.

"It was within a few days that I felt significantly better," Wall said. "I still had a really hard struggle with COVID and ended up with pneumonia. But I am 100% sure that that is what helped me to overcome it."

WakeMed Health & Hospitals has now surpassed 4,000 infusions at its four clinics across Wake County, administering 20-30 infusions a day.

That number could increase if we see a winter surge and more COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant. The one-time infusion is administered through an IV at WakeMed. Some providers administer it through injections.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the treatment can reduce the amount of COVID-19 virus in a person's system and that can mean milder symptoms, decreasing the chances of having to go to the hospital.

WakeMed is only the second provider in the state to join the national Crush COVID initiative, aimed at increasing access to this therapy for high-risk patients in so-called underserved and disadvantaged communities.

"Crush COVID is a kind of collaboration between state government and federal government about making monoclonal antibodies more accessible to the public," said Dr. David Kirk, WakeMed Associate System Chief Medical Officer. "So they make sure that we have antibodies that we need. They help us provide staffing. They help provide education for patients who may not have insurance. They cover the costs. It is a way to make sure that truly everybody in the community that would benefit from monoclonals has access to this wonderful therapy."

"I think for a long time that only people who had means really had access to this," Kirk said. "It was a very limited number of people that was coming in and getting monoclonals."

Kirk said that similar to their vaccine equity work, they've been able to reach historically marginalized populations with this treatment.

"We've been very successful," Kirk said. "Those historically marginalized communities in those populations have really, really taken advantage of this. And we're seeing that. We're keeping people out of the hospitals. We're keeping people from getting sick."

Kirk estimates the therapy has kept 250 people out of the hospital at WakeMed.

Wall is one of them. She is grateful she's healthy this holiday season and wants others to know this therapy is an option.

"It was not as available in January because it was just starting and now here we are almost a year later," Wall said. "And it's such an amazing treatment."

You need to get the therapy within 10 days of getting COVID-19 symptoms.

Atrium Health is the other provider in the state involved in Crush COVID, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. NCDHHS said there are 175 active mAb providers in North Carolina and that they have had four FEMA teams in the state, but are have not been engaged in federal mAb administration efforts besides the FEMA Teams and the project with Atrium and WakeMed.

A physician referral is not needed at WakeMed. To confirm eligibility for the treatment and book an appointment, call the WakeMed mAb Infusion Line at (919) 350-9590. You can also click here for more information.
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