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From prevention to treatment: Ways to fight COVID-19

With a spike in omicron cases and a surge in hospitalizations talk about treatments we have access to for COVID-19 is back.

SAN DIEGO — Monoclonal antibodies help fend off the infection of COVID-19 while anti-viral pills from Pfizer and Merck could help you at home. But there's an order for who gets them and when.

"We are definitely seeing an increase in the number of cases and our hospitals have been impacted by many things," said County of San Diego Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Tuteur. 

With a spike in omicron cases and a surge in hospitalizations, talk about treatments we have access to for COVID-19 is back.

"Monoclonal antibodies are proteins made in the lab," said Dr. Tuteur. 

She said so far 6,500 people have gotten doses in San Diego's antibody regional centers.

"So people who meet those FDA criteria are people who are 65 and older, people who have chronic lung disease, people who have chronic heart disease, so people who are immune-compromised and at risk of having serious complications from COVID," Tuteur said. 

Monoclonal antibodies are a lab-made version of the antibodies our immune systems make which have been shown to bring down hospitalizations and serious illness by more than 70%.

They're meant for people who are so immuno-compromised - their bodies couldn't create antibodies from a vaccine - and they're in short supply.

Dr. Tuteur said that's why right now, according to the National Institutes of Health, people at high risk of severe outcomes or death from COVID have first priority.

Then we have anti-viral pills like Pfizer's Paxlovid.

"That's 88% reduction in getting hospitalized or in having severe outcomes," said Tuteur. "So we're really excited about the prospect." 

Tuteur said that like monoclonal antibodies, the pills are also in short supply nationwide and are meant for people with the highest risk of bad outcomes.

Pfizer's has shown 88% effectiveness while Merck's has shown 30% - and needs to be used carefully in people who are pregnant or hoping to be within three months.

And since they're pills, your doctor will need to prescribe them and a pharmacy will need to dispense them.

But these are all treatments for people who get the virus and doctors say vaccines are still the best way to fend it off.

"The vaccines by far are the best way we can prevent serious outcomes, hospitalizations, and death from COVID," said Tuteur. "Period. End. Vaccines are the best way."

The federal government allocates doses to the states which then divvy them up. Right now, San Diego gets a shipment of monoclonal antibodies on Mondays.

WATCH RELATED: No, a throat swab is not more accurate than a nasal swab in detecting the omicron variant


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