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Monoclonal antibody treatment available in Y-K Delta villages

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation hospital in Bethel, Alaska.
Greg Kim
The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation hospital in Bethel, Alaska.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation is offering monoclonal antibody treatment in villages for qualified people with COVID-19. The treatment is highly effective at halting the disease’s progression in people with mild to moderate symptoms. The antibodies were previously only available to patients in Bethel.

YKHC Chief of Staff Dr. Ellen Hodges said that providers are flying to villages to administer the treatment.

“The method we go about that is identifying those who have tested positive and reaching out to them, and offer to fly to the village in order to administer that [injection],” Hodges said.

To be eligible, a person must have tested positive for COVID-19 and be over the age of 65, or be younger than 65 with a health condition that could be made dangerous by a serious COVID-19 infection. Those conditions include cancer; acquired immunodeficiency; hypertension; diabetes; chronic kidney disease; obesity; chronic lung disease, including moderate to severe asthma, and people requiring dialysis. People who are pregnant are also eligible. There are other requirements as well.

“These medications have to be used before a person requires hospitalization or oxygen. It can prevent a severe disease and hospitalization,” Hodges said.

Under the state’s crisis care standards, preference for the treatment is being given to unvaccinated individuals. However, monoclonal antibodies are not substitutions for COVID-19 vaccination.

Hodges said that monoclonal antibodies previously were only available in Bethel, because under federal regulation, they had to be delivered through an IV by a medical provider trained to care for adverse reactions to the treatment. Patients in villages who test positive for COVID-19 are not allowed on commercial airlines to fly to Bethel, so they could not receive the treatments.

Federal regulations have since changed. Monoclonal antibodies are available under an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That authorization now allows the antibodies to be administered through injection if waiting for an IV would delay treatment. The changes make administering the antibodies in villages possible.

If you think you would qualify for this treatment, you can call the YKHC COVID-19 hotline at 907-543-6949. The hotline is staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and messages are returned the next business day.

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