Kentucky Officials: Monoclonal Antibodies Are Beneficial, But Don't Count On Them

Sep 15, 2021

Officials are cautioning Kentuckians not to rely on monoclonal antibody treatments as a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19, especially now that the sought-after treatment is in short supply.

A nurse enters a monoclonal antibody site, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, Fla.
Credit AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

Monoclonal antibody infusions have increased 18-fold over the last two months in Kentucky, and the state isn't alone in seeing the rush on supplies. Due to a shortage, the federal government announced healthcare providers will no longer be ordering them directly. Instead states, including the commonwealth, will be overseeing distribution of a set amount of supplies.

Gov. Andy Beshear said the change is one reason unvaccinated residents shouldn't put all of their trust in the accessibility of the treatments.

"That monoclonal antibody treatment might not be there for you," the governor warned. "That thing you're counting on might not be available."

One other reason not to consider the infusions as a failsafe: Unlike vaccines, they're not teaching the body how to fight back.

"These are synthetic, laboratory-created antibodies," Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack explained, noting the treatment is designed to give patients a less-than-90-day immune boost in a bid to ward off more severe illness. Unlike vaccines, the infusions aren't training the body in how to combat COVID-19, he added.

It's not clear how the capped number of treatments might affect new plans to set up regional antibody treatment centers, but the governor says his administration will continue to do everything in its power to get the treatments to healthcare facilities.