POLK COUNTY, Fla. – As Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans to hopefully reduce hospitalizations by ramping up the distribution of COVID-19 antibody treatments a Central Florida woman is sharing her experience after taking the therapy.
Stephanie Baum, 31, of Polk County, said she contracted COVID-19 from a family member.
“We did have a heads up that we were exposed,” Baum said.
The mother of two said her symptoms were mild, including a dry cough, but she feared the worst.
“I just didn’t want to be that one-off, [the] 31-year-old person that dies from this and I was so terrified of that,” she said.
Baum said she tested positive for COVID on Tuesday after experiencing symptoms for a few days. She said she was familiar with monoclonal antibodies and knew it was an option.
“I always knew that that was in my back pocket should I contract COVID,” Baum said.
She said after testing positive, she went to a Polk County hospital to receive Regeneron, which is a monoclonal antibody therapy. It received emergency use authorization from the FDA to treat people who contract COVID-19 and are at high risk for severe illness or death.
“They sat me in the chair, it was intravenous, IV and the monoclonal treatment itself only took 20 minutes,” Baum said.
Baum said the hospital monitored her for an hour after receiving the therapy to make sure she didn’t have any reactions.
She said by the next day she was feeling better and only experiencing a lingering cough.
“I really strongly believe that it stopped my symptoms from progressing into anything,” Baum said.
On Thursday, DeSantis announced a new initiative to expand monoclonal antibody treatment.
“There’s clear benefits to this early treatment for keeping people out of the hospital and reducing mortality,” DeSantis said.
He said the treatment isn’t well known, so he wants to increase access to it across Florida. The governor is encouraging high-risk people to seek this therapy if they test positive.
“The core group of people that benefit from this are folks that are at the most high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, so elderly people, people that have certain comorbidities, kidney problems, diabetes, morbid obesity, immunocompromised,” DeSantis said. “If you do it early, this has a great chance to resolve those symptoms short of you needing medical attention and that’s really at the end of the day what it’s all about.”
Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, the Florida Department of Emergency Management chief medical officer, said it’s one of the best therapeutics available to treat COVID.
“This therapy can reduce your risk for hospitalization and death by 70%. And that unvaccinated household contacts of those folks can reduce their risk of developing COVID-19 by over 80%,” Scheppke said.
Baum said she was set to get the COVID-19 vaccine next week, but then she got sick. She said she plans to get vaccinated once she fully recovers.
She hopes her story will encourage others to seek this treatment if they qualify.
“I was surprised at how many people had no idea that it was an option and how many people thought they really just had to wait it out and see if they get hospitalized or not and that’s scary, that’s very scary,” Baum said.
The FDA said while monoclonal antibodies can be used for treatment under emergency use authorization, the agency said it is not a substitute for the COVID-19 vaccine.
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