What are monoclonal antibody treatments and who is eligible?

Co-Author: Jenna Resnik

Antibodies are made by your immune system in response to viruses and other microbes. When you are exposed to a new virus, like the virus that causes COVID-19, your body does not have any antibodies against that virus. Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic versions of the antibodies people produce naturally and can help protect against severe COVID-19. They have been shown to reduce COVID-related hospitalization and death. 

Three monoclonal antibody treatments are available in the U.S. through an emergency use authorization (EUA): 

Because antibodies are most helpful at the beginning of an illness, these medications are used early, within 10 days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. They are all given intravenously (IV) to patients who are not hospitalized or those hospitalized for reasons other than COVID-19 but have had a positive COVID test.

Monoclonal antibodies are a scarce resource and so are only used for people who are at high risk of having severe disease with COVID-19:

  • Over 65 years
  • People with immunosuppression
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes. 

Monoclonal antibodies may also be used among close contacts of COVID-19-positive individuals who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 to prevent them from getting the virus. 

Individual decisions regarding treatment are made in conjunction with a patient’s doctor. 

Last Updated: October 15, 2021 9:43pm ET

Review: GHH, GSN