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What is monoclonal antibody treatment, and which COVID patients are eligible?

Colorado says the number of people receiving the antibody treatments is low, maybe because people don't understand it. It's also because not everyone is eligible.

DENVER — The state of Colorado has an idea to prevent hospitals from getting over capacity because of COVID.

No, it is not a mask mandate or restrictions on indoor capacity.

The state wants to put monoclonal antibodies in the bodies of those who have just contracted COVID. But only if they're high risk, and not the same high risk definition that qualifies everyone for a booster shot.

An executive order issued by Gov. Jared Polis (D) deemed all of Colorado high risk for exposure to COVID, thus allowing anyone 18 or older to get a COVID booster.

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Not everyone 18 or older can qualify for monoclonal antibody treatment.

"Yes, there is a difference, let me explain," said Dr. Connie Savor Price, Chief Medical Officer at Denver Health.

"[It's done with] either an injection under the skin or an intravenous infusion," said Dr. Price. "The monoclonal antibody prevents those already infected from getting severe disease. Not everybody is at risk for severe disease."

To be eligible for monoclonal antibody treatments, ultimately, you need to be at high risk of getting really sick from COVID.

"Maybe you have risk factors such as obesity or underlying medical illness like heart disease, cancer, lung disease? Then you might be at risk of getting severe COVID," said Dr. Price.

The state has provided a flow chart to determine if you qualify. (Dr. Price helped walk us through the complicated flow chart after explaining monoclonal antibody treatments, and you can watch in the video above.)

"The criteria are, either age over 65, a body mass index of over 25 or an underlying condition such as heart disease, cancer, a weakened immune system. If you have any of those things, you could be at risk of severe COVID, and if you get infected, it would benefit you to come in for an infusion or an injection to prevent your risk for hospitalization," said Dr. Price.

"You can give it both, to treat to prevent that progression to severe disease, as well as prophylaxis, if you have a significant exposure to somebody with COVID, such as somebody in your household," said Dr. Price.

But that still requires the person with the exposure to be at high risk of getting really sick.

> Watch: Monoclonal antibody treatments becoming more available in Colorado

State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said on Friday that if monoclonal antibody treatment goes up by 50%, there will be a significant drop in the number of projected hospitalizations in Colorado.

"If we are able to substantially increase monoclonal therapy use in Colorado, we estimate that we could decrease peak hospitalizations here in Colorado by 150 to 300 at the peak," said Herlihy.

Based on projections provided by the state, there will be more than 2,000 hospitalized patients in Colorado if monoclonal antibody treatment continues at the same pace as now. If it increases 50%, the state projects it will reduce the risk of exceeding hospital capacity by 30% and prevent 2,600 hospitalizations and 210 deaths between now and February.

Colorado has 161 providers offering the treatment.

The treatment at the mobile buses provided by the state in Pueblo, El Paso, Weld and Mesa Counties, Cortez and Durango are free. We asked if the treatment is free at any other provider and are waiting for a response from the state as of Friday night.

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