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How antibody therapies may help protect people from coronavirus before a vaccine is available

A vaccine to protect us against coronavirus may be a year or more away but there are other technologies on the horizon that could help protect people from getting the virus.

You've heard a lot about antibody treatments when we talk about convalescent plasma. Some of our local hospitals are using blood plasma from survivors to help sick patients make a recovery. This is also a common way to treat cancer.

Now, some companies have learned to recreate those antibodies for COVID-19 and are hoping it will give some people a boost of immunity (at least short-term) before vaccines are available.

Regeneron and Eli Lilly are among American favorites to develop antibody treatments.

They could potentially give a dose of immunity to the virus, although, it’s unknown how long the immunity would last.

Unlike convalescent plasma, which uses antibodies from a COVID survivor’s blood, manufacturers do not need a steady supply of antibody-rich blood to produce these kinds of treatments. So, this approach would be easier to mass-produce.

Those antibody treatments, they say, could be ready by the end of this year. At best, we might see one by the end of summer. That would be remarkable, considering a vaccine probably won’t be ready for possibly another year from now.

“These can be used as treatments particularly if you are treated early,” Hotez said. “Also, they are short-term antibodies that last for a couple of weeks.”

Even though companies plan to have thousands of doses ready, Hotez said they will likely aim to reach some people first:

  • Nursing homes
  • Military
  • Health care providers
  • Chronically ill

We put a lot of hope in vaccines because historically, that’s what comes along and saves us from pandemics like this, but with new developments like these antibody therapies and anti-viral drugs, experts think there’s hope that these treatments can help us get back to normal before the vaccine is available.

Once a vaccine is available, that might still be considered the gold standard since it will probably give longer immune protection. Vaccines may also be cheaper to the producer than antibody therapies.