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Boosters, monoclonal antibodies key to reducing hospitalizations, state health leaders say

The governor provided more information about monoclonal antibody treatment and how it helps people fight COVID-19 infections.

DENVER — First and foremost Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) on Friday urged everyone to get vaccinated as a way to curb COVID-19 infections, but he also touted monoclonal antibody treatment to reduce hospitalizations if someone does become infected.

"If you're at higher risk of hospitalization, meaning you're in your 60s, 70s, have a pre-existing condition that puts you at risk, even in your 50s -- get monoclonal antibodies. It can reduce hospitalizations by about 70%," he said.

And that, he said, is key not just for patients but also for hospitals where bed availability is at an all-time low and there's the potential to exceed capacity if trends don't change.

There are currently 1,476 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, according to Polis, and only about 19% of them are vaccinated.

"One of the really unfortunate trends that we've seen in the last week, is a rapid increase in hospitalizations," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. 

Based on that trend, Herlihy said they've run new models which show the state could reach maximum capacity for hospitalizations. That information was shared with state leaders and they're working on two main ways to combat that trend: boosters and monoclonal antibody treatments.

Boosters

Polis this week signed an executive order essentially making everyone over 18 eligible for a booster if they're six months out from their Pfizer or Moderna shots or two months out from the Johnson & Johnson shot.

That is at odds with federal guidelines and Polis said they're working with providers to make sure they're on board with providing the booster to anyone, not just those who meet the federal criteria.

RELATED: Top Colorado doctor says everyone eligible should get COVID-19 booster due to 'significant wave of disease spread'

Monoclonal antibody treatments

The current number of patients receiving monoclonal antibody treatments is low, according to Herlihy who said if 50% of those eligible received the treatment it would be a "significant increase."

"If you're able to substantially increase monoclonal therapy use in Colorado, we estimate that we could decrease peak hospitalizations here in Colorado by 150 to 300," she said.

That could also reduce the risk of exceeding hospital capacity by 30%, she said.

Part of the problem is awareness about the treatment option, according to state leaders. 

"Our family physician wasn't familiar with how to get monoclonal antibody treatment," said Jill Lestor, who was treated with the antibodies along with her husband in July. "But fortunately for both of us, I had been advised by a UCHealth emergency room doctor with whom I work occasionally, that if we or any of our peers contract COVID to contact UCHealth about MAB a monoclonal antibody treatment."

Lestor and her husband were fully vaccinated but still became sick and feared they might need to be hospitalized.

"The treatment was efficient and uneventful for us. We were able to recover faster and reduced our risk of complications," she said.

Another issue regarding the treatment is referrals and Polis said they've issued a standing order to allow the treatment without needing one.

The treatment works best for those who are symptomatic but in the early stages of the virus so the state is also working to increase access to the treatment with mobile units.

To find a site near you visit the state's tool for antibody treatments

There are currently 161 enrolled monoclonal antibody providers across Colorado, according to Polis.

Other measures

The governor was repeatedly pressed Friday on whether there were other options being considered by the state to help reduce hospitalizations but he refused to commit.

RELATED: COVID vaccinations now required at Ball Arena

Polis did mention that some venues such as Ball Arena had added vaccine requirements and that they're working with cities to have more larger venues implement similar policies and that there would be "more news" on that in the coming days.

> Here is a list of resources to help those who want to get a booster to find one near them in Colorado.

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