OCOEE, Fla. – Central Florida hospitals and clinics are providing a COVID-19 treatment that the governor said could help cut down on hospitalizations across the state.
GuideWell Emergency Doctors is one of the health care providers administering monoclonal antibodies.
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Dr. Laura Gallegos works at the Ocoee urgent care center. She said it’s been a rough few weeks at the facility as physicians are caring for an uptick in COVID patients.
“It’s kinda astonishing how quickly the cases skyrocketed,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos and the medical staff at the clinic are working hard to keep COVID patients from going to the hospital. The site is offering Regeneron, which is a monoclonal antibody treatment that received emergency use authorization from the FDA. The health care provider provides the treatment for free to eligible patients.
“The whole idea is to prevent the complications from COVID,” Gallegos said. “It doesn’t treat COVID, it doesn’t get rid of COVID, but it prevents the complications of COVID.”
It is an infused medication that can reduce COVID symptoms in patients who are at high risk.
“It’s really meant for people who are at risk for developing the complications, so it’s not just for absolutely anybody. It’s meant for those people who have risk factors who are likely to end up in the hospital or intensive care,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos said high-risk factors include being overweight or obese, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, a weakened immune system, chronic kidney disease and other conditions that put you at high risk.
She adds timing is key if you qualify for the treatment.
“You have to get it in the first 10 days of the onset of your symptoms,” she said.
Gallegos said on average, the clinic is administering 10 treatments a day. The healthcare provider said they have provided 250 treatments in the last month at GuideWell Emergency Doctors’ three Central Florida locations.
Gallegos said her patients report feeling better after the treatments. She adds it’s keeping them out of the hospital.
“So if you received that monoclonal antibody infusion, you’re less likely to wind up in the hospital, to wind up on a ventilator,” she said. “You’re more likely to do much better than someone who didn’t get it.”
While Gallegos said the treatment is beneficial, it is not a substitute for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s not meant to be a replacement for the vaccine,” she said. “We don’t want you to get COVID at all. This is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card or anything like that.”
She said the treatment is becoming more widely known.
“A few weeks ago, nobody had heard of it and now we’re getting community physicians in the area sending their patients to get it,” Gallegos said. “I think it’s becoming more well-known among patients and physicians. The word is getting out.”
The drug is also becoming more widely available. The White House COVID-19 Response Team said it increased monoclonal antibody shipments to Florida over the past month.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday he’s expanding access to the drug. He launched a rapid response unit in Jacksonville to administer the therapy with plans to expand across the state.
Gallegos said she is encouraging COVID-positive patients to talk to their doctors about the treatment.
“This is an option for people to be a little bit more aggressive with their management and try to be proactive,” she said.
GuideWell Emergency Doctors is offering monoclonal antibodies at its locations in Ocoee, Orlando and Winter Park. Patients can make an appointment or walk-ins are allowed.
To find a location for an infusion center near you, click here.