Even with multiple COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, there are still groups of people who do not receive the full benefit of vaccines due to immunosuppressed conditions that prevent the body from making sufficient antibodies. But one alternative treatment option is providing hope.
Known as Evusheld, the medication contains protective antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.
The antibodies are given as two injections at the same time to a patient, and once injected they are in the system ready to work if the patient is exposed to another person with acute COVID-19 infection in the future.
Vineeta Kumar, M.D., professor of nephrology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine, says this is an effective option for immunocompromised populations, such as transplant patients.
“We know that transplant recipients develop less of an antibody response to the vaccine due to their immunosuppressive medications,” Kumar said. “In other words, the medication or immunosuppressed condition may prevent their body from making sufficient antibodies, and in some patients any antibody. This could result in a decrease in the vaccine’s ability to provide protection against COVID-19 infection.”
Kumar adds that this treatment is meant to be given before a person has been exposed to another with COVID-19 infection.
“Evusheld should not be used as a substitute for vaccination or for primary prevention strategies, including masking, social distancing and avoidance of large indoor social gatherings,” Kumar said. “Vaccination of close contacts, including household members, continues to be an important measure to protect transplant recipients from COVID-19 infection.”
For transplant patients, Kumar says it is crucial they receive the infusion as soon as they are cleared after the transplant.
“Due to limited supply of Evusheld nationwide, patients early after transplant or early after receiving medications that suppresses their immune system are prioritized to get Evusheld first,” she said.
She says it is possible that Evusheld may reduce the body’s immune response to a COVID-19 vaccine. If someone has received the COVID-19 vaccine, they should wait at least two weeks after vaccination to receive Evusheld; but booster doses of vaccine can be given any time after Evusheld has been administered.
“We will continue to monitor response of the new virus variants to this infusion,” Kumar said.
UAB and doctors across the state are still working to make sure as many people have it as possible.
“And these include referrals through our state Department of Public Health and referrals from other medical centers,” said Anoma Nellore, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases. “We want to make sure all patients are protected.”
At UAB, Kumar is the Robert and Cutessa Bourge Endowed Professor in Transplant Nephrology.