Is COVID Back? A Life-Saving Treatment that Many Seniors Don’t know Exists

Q. My grandchildren are in school in Fairfax County and they just got a letter stating that they will need to wear masks to school, whether or not they are vaccinated. This, of course, is because of the new CDC mask guidelines, recommending that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people mask indoors in areas with significant community spread.

Given this reversal in guidelines, I am concerned once again for seniors, similar to myself, who were getting very ill and even dying from COVID in 2020 and earlier this year. Even those who are vaccinated need to worry about variants, such as Delta. Should we stay quarantined once again? I don’t know if I can handle not seeing my grandchildren for an entire year again. Also, if we do catch a variant of COVID, is there something we can do early on so it isn’t as severe? Thanks for your help!

A. You are correct. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidelines on when, where, and who should wear face masks again to protect against COVID-19. The CDC now recommends that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people mask indoors in areas with significant community spread. Before, vaccinated people did not have to mask indoors. The CDC also recommends that all students, teachers and staff in K-12 schools wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

Why did the CDC Issue the New Guidelines?

Significant increased spread in the U.S., likely driven by the delta variant, led to the change in guidelines by the CDC. The delta variant is about twice as infectious as the original strain of the virus. There are also newer data suggesting a small portion of vaccinated people can become infected and transmit the infection. To see the level of community transmission, visit this CDC site.

How Can Seniors Decrease the Severity if they Get COVID?

For patients over 65 or those with co-morbid conditions diagnosed with COVID, treatment with monoclonal antibodies can keep them from getting really ill, becoming hospitalized, or dying. Yet, 75% of the doses sent out across the country to prevent severe illness remain unused.

Monoclonal antibodies gained media attention with the news in October 2020 when the president received the experimental Regeneron antibody treatment. They have since progressed to allow more widespread use.

How Do Monoclonal Antibodies Work?

When we are sick, the body’s immune system generates antibodies as a defense mechanism against unfamiliar molecules. The bodies of the majority of people who recover from COVID-19 produce antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Scientists have found that these antibodies persist for at least 5–7 months after the infection. Scientists can produce these same antibodies in a laboratory setting to be infused into the blood.

Antibody treatments in themselves are not new. Healthcare professionals have used monoclonal antibodies, for example, to treat viral infections such as Ebola virus and HIV. For COVID-19, there are several authorized monoclonal antibody therapies.

Who Can Get Monoclonal Antibody Treatment?

Healthcare professionals currently administer monoclonal antibodies via intravenous infusions in specialized medical facilities. As noted in clinical trials, most of the treatments work most effectively for non-hospitalized patients in the early stages of COVID-19.

The monoclonal antibody therapeutic medicines that are being used for COVID-19 have been approved for emergency use by the FDA for those meeting at least one of the following criteria:

  • having a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 35;
  • having chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or an immunosuppressive condition;
  • being older than 65 years;
  • being older than 55 years and having cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or another chronic respiratory disease;
  • being aged 12–17 years and having a BMI equal to or greater than the 85th percentile for one’s age and sex, sickle cell disease, heart disease, a neurodevelopmental disorder, medical-related technological dependence, asthma, or another chronic respiratory disease requiring daily medication.

Potential side effects

Both Eli Lilly and Company and Regeneron, companies who manufacture the antibodies, state that their combined antibody therapies may cause hypersensitivity reactions, with the most common side effects including infusion-related reactions and allergic reactions.

Infusion-related reactions can also include fever; nausea; chills; fatigue; chest pain; difficulty breathing; an irregular heartbeat; headache; low or high blood pressure,; throat pain; rash; and/or dizziness.

Where Can You Get Monoclonal Antibody Treatment?

Monoclonal Antibody Treatments are available at locations across the country to treat people who are at risk of developing severe symptoms and being hospitalized. Early treatment can help some patients stay out of the hospital.

A new treatment locator can help you find the nearest location where these medicines have been delivered. If you get sick with COVID, talk with your doctor about whether these treatments would be right for you.

Should I Receive Monoclonal Antibody Treatment?

If you are extra vigilant, you can still go about your life normally. The most effective way to prevent COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and continue to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as mask wearing and physical distancing. For those who develop COVID-19, more treatment options are gradually becoming available.

As stated earlier, monoclonal antibody treatments are most effective within a few days of receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis. If a person is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is part of a high risk group, they should speak with a healthcare professional about the available treatment options and whether one is appropriate for them.

Hope you and your family continue to be safe and stay healthy!

Farr Law Firm Has Updated Our COVID-19 Policy for Your Safety

Recently, we have updated our COVID-19 Policy for the safety of our clients and staff. Our new notice is as follows:

“The Farr Law Firm is committed to providing you with ongoing excellent service while protecting the health and safety of our clients and staff. Though we have remained open throughout the pandemic accepting in-person consultations, we still prefer to have most appointments via Zoom video conferencing. Phone appointments are also available. If you choose an in-person consultation, please know that we are taking all recommended precautions to maintain a healthy office environment. Following the most recent CDC guidance, we are recommending that all visitors wear a mask regardless of vaccination status. Regardless of how events evolve concerning COVID-19, we will continue to provide outstanding service in a socially responsible manner.”

Safely Plan for Your Future and Your Loved Ones

For those of you who have not done Estate Planning, Retirement Planning, or Long-Term Care Planning (or had your documents reviewed in the past 5 years – or last 3 years if you’re over 65), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation. Please see our guidelines above for details, and please call use to set up an appointment:

Elder Care Fairfax: 703-691-1888

Elder Care Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435

Elder Care Rockville: 301-519-8041

Elder Care DC: 202-587-2797

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