Local health expert’s take on when to seek monoclonal antibody treatment

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data this week showing the omicron variant accounted for nearly 60% of new cases in the U.S. last week — less than the over 70% first thought. Delta made up the rest.

For the previous week that ended Dec. 18, the CDC revised its percentage of cases linked to omicron from 73% to 23%.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explained why the numbers fluctuated so drastically.

“What we do is we take the genomic surveillance data that we have and we do predictive modeling in order to assess and estimate the prevalence of omicron. Of course, early in omicron, when we have really rapid speed, those predictive estimates can be less stable and that’s what happened in this period of time,” Walensky said. “I think the important thing to note here is that there are areas of this country that have 20% omicron, there are areas of this country that have 90% of cases omicron, and what we have seen and what our predictions have demonstrated is that this is a rapidly increasing variant in the United States.”

Data shows the Regeneron treatment, which is offered by UF Health Jacksonville, the Joseph Lee Center near Brentwood and other treatment sites, does not work well in fighting the omicron variant, according to Chad Neilsen with UF Health.

UF Health Jacksonville had considered no longer ordering the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment but with the new numbers from the CDC, they backed off that decision and will continue to offer Regeneron treatment, Neilsen said.

There is also a newer monoclonal antibody treatment, but it is in short supply and is not available in Northeast Florida.

Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, said the area is working to get the newer antibody treatment.

If you are unvaccinated and are infected with the omicron variant, you may have one less treatment option if you get really sick. UF Health Jacksonville now says it is no longer ordering the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment used by local hospitals to treat people infected with the coronavirus.

He said, in general, monoclonal antibody treatment should only be used for patients 12 years and older who are at risk of severe illness or death.

You must have a positive test result to receive the treatment.

“If you are asymptomatic and you tested positive and are unvaccinated, I do not recommend monoclonal antibody treatment at that point, unless you are at risk of severe disease,” Joshi added.

He said the bad news is that omicron spreads faster than the delta variant.

“With the delta variant, someone could spread it to about seven different people. With the omicron variant, right now, data suggest that one person can spread it to 10 different people. So it does have significant transmissibility,” Joshi said. “But the good news is that it does not appear to be as severe as the delta variant was in terms of causing hospitalization or severe illness, but again we need to keep in mind a lot of data is from other parts of the world and may not be the case here.”

While Joshi acknowledges there have been breakthrough cases, people who are fully vaccinated who have been infected with omicron, he added, “folks who are vaccinated and have received the booster are considerably less likely to be hospitalized or to get a severe illness even if they get the virus.”

About the Authors:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.