By A.L. Haynes| Contributing Writer
On August 30th, the first of San Diego County’s new Monoclonal Antibody Regional Centers (MARCs) was officially opened. These centers will provide COVID-19 testing, monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19, and CoVid-19 reinfection and related illness prevention. The county has been providing these services for months, but plans to step-up monoclonal antibody treatments in the hopes of lessening the impact of new CoVid cases. San Diego Mayor Gloria noted that the MARCs “will ease the burden on local hospitals and help prevent the spread of CoVid-19 in our city, especially in light of the highly contagious Delta variant”.
Monoclonal Antibodies, or MAbs for short, have been around for over a century. The County of San Diego describes them as “proteins made in a lab that help boost the immune system to fight viruses”. They rose to prominence in the 1970s, but were used largely for laboratory studies rather than in medical applications until the late 1990s. They are proven to be effective in treating diseases that are resistant to medicine or that have no treatments yet, but must be administered early in the infection.
Like vaccinations, MAbs for CoVid are currently only allowed for people aged 12 and older who weigh at least 88 lbs. They must be given within the first 10 days of catching CoVid, and priority is for unvaccinated and immune-compromised individuals with underlying health conditions. They are administered by either a shot or through an IV, depending on the patient’s needs.
There are currently nine recognized CoVid variants globally, with four of the variants already in the USA – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta. San Diego currently has cases of the Alpha, Gamma, and Delta variants. The Delta variant first appeared in San Diego in April 2021 and has already reached around 2000 cases and 18 deaths for this variant alone. Around 8% of the Delta cases have been centered in San Diego’s Black community. Of huge concern at this time is the evidence that MAb treatments are less effective against the Delta and Alpha variants.
Nonetheless, timely treatment with MAbs can prevent hospitalization and death. San Diego County Public Health Officer, Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, noted that, “While not a replacement for vaccination, this no-cost procedure can reduce the risk of COVID-19-related hospital visits and help those sick with the virus feel better faster”.
There are currently four MARCs up and running: Vista Community Clinic, Palomar Medical Center Downtown (Escondido), Family Health Centers of San Diego Hillcrest, and Family Health Centers of San Diego Chula Vista. A fifth MARC at Clairemont Friendship Center is scheduled to open soon. At this time, the county is not providing data about age or race of people who have received the treatments.
San Diego is providing MAb treatments for free to anyone who meets the medical criteria, regardless of insurance and immigration status. Patients must be recommended to the nearest MARC by their primary care provider (PCP) or healthcare system. If your PCP cannot provide a recommendation, or you do not have one, patients can try calling (619) 685-2500. As with all other CoVid-related services, Medi-Cal transportation programs are available.
The SDV&V’s coverage of local news in San Diego County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Enthnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.