Monoclonal antibody treatment in high demand

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – As COVID positivity rates skyrocket across the Finger Lakes region, the demand for monoclonal antibody treatment is skyrocketing too.

On Friday, News10NBC reported that the treatment is available locally for people who qualify but many are finding it tough to secure an appointment for the infusion.

Cliff Wagner’s young grandson was exposed to COVID-19 at daycare and since the family spent Thanksgiving together, they all decided to get tested, “out of an abundance of caution, we all went and got rapid tested and we all came back negative and then the next day I started feeling bad so I went back down and got the PCR test,” he explains to News10NBC. The PCR test came back positive on Friday.

Wagner is fully vaccinated but has some medical issues so as his symptoms got worse, he called his primary care doctor, “I asked him about getting this monoclonal treatment and they didn’t seem to know where I could get it or how,” he explains.

Monoclonal antibody treatment is available locally through both the UR Medicine and Rochester Regional Health systems. In order to be eligible, you must have a positive PCR test result and have been experiencing symptoms for less than 10 days. In most cases, you must also have a pre-existing health condition that could make your symptoms worse.

These are all prerequisites that Wagner meets but calling around for an appointment while getting sicker has been quite a frustrating process. Wagner finally got through to a UR Medicine Urgent Care that offers very limited appointments for the treatment but he says he was told, “we’re scheduling people out for the end of next week now and I don’t do the scheduling so I can’t schedule you…I’m like listen, I don’t want to wait a week and a half to get life-saving treatment you know,” he says.

On Friday, Dr. Shahzad Mustafa, the lead physician for Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology at Rochester Regional Health told News10NBC, “each week we show our utilization (to NYS) and ask for the next supply and to be honest, to date we’ve pretty much gotten what we’ve asked for, until recently where we’ve had less allocation than requested.”

In an email, a spokeswoman for UR Medicine told News10NBC on Monday, “UR Medicine provides monoclonal antibody therapy, which is aimed at a subset of COVID patients who are at elevated risk of hospitalization. Physicians triage patients using an assessment protocol from the NIH. As the Rochester Regional physician outlined on Friday, health systems are facing challenges with supply and staffing, as it is a time-intensive therapy.”

“This is your only option and it’s so booked up you can’t get in,” Wagner says and while he has an appointment set for late Friday afternoon, he’ll be at the tail-end of his eligibility window, “I want to help more than just me I want people to get treatment as quick as possible.