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USA: Antibody drug to protect the vulnerable from Covid goes unused

Sasha Mallett, Sue Taylor and Kimberly Cooley all have immune deficiencies that make them especially vulnerable to Covid-19, and all have tried to get the same thing: a new treatment that can prevent the disease in people who either cannot produce antibodies after receiving a coronavirus vaccine or cannot get vaccinated at all.

Ms. Cooley, a liver transplant recipient in Duck Hill, Mississippi, got the antibody drug, called Evusheld, from her transplant team at the University of Mississippi Medical Center with no trouble. But Ms. Taylor, of Cincinnati, was denied the treatment by two hospitals near her home. And Dr. Mallett, a physician in Portland, Ore., had to drive five hours to a hospital willing to give her a dose.

As much of the USA unmasks amid plummeting caseloads and fresh hope that the pandemic is fading, the Biden administration has insisted it will continue protecting the more than seven million Americans with weakened immune systems who remain vulnerable to Covid. Evusheld, which was developed by AstraZeneca with financial support from the federal government, is essential to its strategy.

But there is so much confusion about the drug among healthcare providers that roughly 80% of the available doses are sitting unused in warehouses and on pharmacy and hospital shelves.

Interviews with doctors, patients and government officials suggest the reasons the drug is going unused are varied. Some patients and doctors do not know Evusheld exists. Some do not know where to get it. Government guidelines on who should be prioritised for the drug are scant. In some hospitals and medical centres, supplies are being reserved for patients at the highest risk, such as recent transplant recipients and cancer patients, while doses in other areas of the country are being given out through a lottery or on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hesitance is also an issue. Some doctors and other providers do not know how to use Evusheld and are thus loath to prescribe it.

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: New York Times, 6 March 2022


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