HIGH SPRINGS ‒ North Florida now has five monoclonal antibody treatment centers, with High Springs opening a site on Aug. 24. at the Fellowship Church of High Springs. Monoclonal antibodies help the immune system recognize and respond more effectively to the COVID-19 virus. Vaccines are still the most effective preventative of infection or severity of symptoms, with over one billion people worldwide vaccinated.

Almost 40 percent of the U.S. population remains unvaccinated. While the vaccines are not 100 percent effective and there have been a few cases of severe reaction or death, these account for less than .001 percent of those who have received the vaccine. Safety concerns, misinformation, political bias, debates about free choice or lack of availability account for the numbers of unvaccinated.

The monoclonal treatment is not a replacement for the vaccine and only works to lessen the severity of those already diagnosed with COVID and showing mild symptoms. Governor Ron DeSantis has promoted this treatment as another tool to lessen severity of the Delta variant, and in August he ordered the rollout of 25 treatment sites including five in North Florida.

Monoclonal antibody treatment prevents serious illness and death among high-risk people such as the elderly, individuals who are overweight, diabetic or have compromised heart, lungs, kidneys or immune systems. The treatment is most effective when given early and the sooner it is given the better the results.

Those already hospitalized with COVID-19 issues are unable to receive the monoclonal antibody treatment because the effects are unknown. Clinical trials are currently underway to determine the safety of monoclonal antibodies in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The treatment consists of two injections in the stomach area and one in each arm or an intravenous feed.

The High Springs site, located in the church’s gymnasium, accommodates up to 300 patients. The Fellowship Church location currently sees roughly 150 to 200 patients each day, according to Paul Myers, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Alachua County. The church previously served as a COVID-19 vaccine location earlier in the year. Myers plans to keep the Alachua County site open as long as people need it.

According to Myers, the treatment is a free and painless option and is available to all eligible people, regardless of vaccination status, but should be administered as soon as possible after receiving a positive COVID test to be the most effective. The treatment only works for people already diagnosed with the virus and does not replace the vaccine as a method of preventing the virus.

Patients can receive this treatment without a prescription or referral if administered by an eligible health care provider. Such referrals are not required at any of the State of Florida monoclonal antibody treatment sites to treat non-hospitalized patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of clinical progression due to underlying conditions. Fellowship Church of High Springs is located at 16916 N.W. U.S. Highway 441. Although patients do not need an appointment for the treatment, appointments and additional information is available by calling 850-344-9637 or by visiting the patients portal at floridahealth.gov.

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