• The San Juan Daily Star

Health chief touts monoclonal antibody treatment against COVID-19

By John McPhaul


Given the increase in hospitalizations caused by the SARS-Cov-2 virus, mostly in unvaccinated people, island Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López on Sunday stressed the importance of using monoclonal antibody treatment to combat COVID-19.

“We have to make use of the available treatments that allow us to reduce the number of people hospitalized,” Mellado López said in a written statement. “Monoclonal is a valuable and effective alternative available to our people. The treatment contains defenses to weaken the virus, preventing the disease from progressing, reducing the probability of hospitalization and the worsening the health condition of people infected with the virus.”

A monoclonal antibody is an antibody made by cloning a unique white blood cell.

Mellado López said the treatment is indicated for patients over 12 years of age who have tested positive for COVID-19 in an antigen or molecular test and must be administered within the first 10 days after symptoms appear. He added that those patients at risk of suffering from a severe illness resulting in hospitalization, as well as patients who live in the same home and who have had a prolonged exposure to a positive case and have risk factors, are also candidates. The same goes for patients vaccinated against COVID-19 but at risk of not developing an adequate response to vaccination.

Twelve facilities on the island offer the treatment and it is free of cost for patients. Monoclonal treatments are available at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Aguadilla, Mennonite Hospital in Aibonito, HIMA San Pablo in Bayamón, Mennonite Hospital of Caguas, University of Puerto Rico Hospital in Carolina, Advanced Infusion Center in Cataño, and Optima Health in Dorado. In San Juan it is offered at Ashford Presbyterian Hospital, the Cardiovascular Hospital and the Medical Services Administration. The monoclonal treatment obtained an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

As of Sunday, more than 200 patients had received the treatment successfully, preventing hospitalization and death, Mellado López said, noting that doctors can order the treatment alternative. Epidemiologists can also recommend the citizen to a doctor for the treatment during the interview that is conducted when a positive case is shown in the Health Department BioPortal.

According to Health Department statistics, in the seven days prior to Sunday, 67 people had died from COVID-19, of which 56 were unvaccinated people. Eleven of the deceased, despite being vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine, also suffered from diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, kidney diseases, among others, which complicated the severity of the disease.

The Health Department’s principal medical officer, Iris Cardona, noted that as of June 21, 2021, the risk of contagion for unvaccinated people was 6.9 times higher than among those who were completely vaccinated.

“Now with the delta variant, our concern continues to be the group of people who are not vaccinated. We have continued our vaccination efforts and carried the proper and correct message, because vaccines continue to provide protection,” Cardona said. “This is shown by recent statistics; the vaccines helped prevent 16,505 infections, 1,307 hospitalizations and 367 deaths.”