New medication provides protection against COVID-19 for immunocompromised

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 7:06 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Lily McMorrow was diagnosed in 2017 with an autoimmune disease called autoimmune myocarditis, which causes inflammation of the heart. She got a COVID-19 vaccination but because of the immunosuppression medication she takes, the vaccine wasn’t very effective.

“And I was in the unfortunate position where I also didn’t have a really strong response to the vaccine. I had kind of lower antibody levels than would be expected of someone with a healthy immune system if they were to get the vaccine,” said McMorrow.

McMorrow tested positive and spent time in the hospital recovering.

It’s estimated hundreds of thousands of people in Missouri and Illinois have some level of compromised immune system and are at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. But recently, the FDA gave emergency use authorization for a treatment to provide protection for that population called Evusheld.

Evusheld is a long acting monoclonal antibody that’s not given as a treatment for COVID-19, but as a preventative measure.

Dr. Alfred Kim is a Washington University physician at Barnes Jewish Hospital, who specializes in rheumatology.

“So in essence, they replace the antibodies that should have been made by these individuals who are immunosuppressed, but they weren’t able to because of the immunosuppression. This allows them though to be able to behave as if they were vaccinated and generate a good response, such as people who are not on immunosuppression.” he said.

And Kim said the antibodies in Evusheld last longer some antibodies usually do.

“It allows for this kind of prolonged existence in our blood stream. And that allows the drug to be able to be administered every six months, to ensure that antibody levels are high enough to be able to neutralize SARS‑CoV‑2,” said Kim.

Those who are eligible to receive Evusheld include people who’ve had an organ transplant or undergone a stem cell transplant. Others who are also eligible are people who are immunocompromised or undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments that depress the immune system.

The treatment has given McMorrow peace of mind.

“I’m still very cautious, but it’s definitely been a huge relief to know that I have some some form of protection now,” she said.

Initially, Evushield was in short supply, but is more plentiful now. It’s recommended you talk with your doctor to see if you’re eligible and to find out where you can receive the preventative therapy.