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County Expanding Access To COVID-19 Therapy Proven To Reduce Illness

A coronavirus patient lies on a bed surrounded by medical staff inside the intensive care unit at a Scripps hospital in this undated photo.
Scripps Health
A coronavirus patient lies on a bed surrounded by medical staff inside the intensive care unit at a Scripps hospital in this undated photo.

San Diego County health officials are expanding access to a coronavirus therapy that has been proven to reduce the severity of illness when used soon after symptoms arise.

"The sooner the better is always best for this treatment," said Dr. Maria Carriedo-Ceniceros, chief medical officer at San Ysidro Health.

County Expanding Access To COVID-19 Therapy Proven To Reduce Illness
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

She referred to the therapy process called monoclonal antibody treatments. Monday, at an old fire station in Chula Vista, she and others unveiled a new county-sponsored Monoclonal Antibody Regional Treatment Center.

"It really is there just to help your immune system fight this virus," she said.

The treatment uses laboratory-made proteins to attack the virus, potentially keeping those who have tested positive from developing more severe symptoms.

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"This is a great opportunity for South Bay residents to seek early COVID-19 treatment," said San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas.

This new facility is run by San Ysidro Health and is located in a ZIP code (91911) with the second most reported coronavirus cases in San Diego County.

"If you do test positive for COVID-19 we urge you to access treatment as soon as possible," said Dr. Jennifer Tuteur, the county's deputy chief medical officer.

Up until now, only Palomar Health was offering the therapy locally, at their downtown Escondido hospital.

He says since they started offering the treatment in February of this year, just 200 people have used it.

VIDEO: County Expanding Access To COVID-19 Therapy Proven To Reduce Illness

"Has it been safe for people — has it been a good treatment? Yes," Khawja said. He noted of the nearly 200 people just two were eventually hospitalized. The whole anti-body treatment process is fairly simple, requiring just one visit.

"They’re going to give you an infusion sort of like a saline bag that you might see hanging in a TV show," Khawja said referring the IV used to delivery the treatment. "That’s going to run in about 30 minutes and then you’re going to hangout with us for another hour — so it’s going to take a little bit of your day."

The treatment is available for those 12 and older with mild to moderate virus symptoms and it is available at no cost, regardless of immigration status. The antibodies are designed for those who may get very sick from the virus.

"If you’re over 65, you definitely get it and all other age groups need some type of comorbidity," Khawaja said.

Officials are hoping more people will use the therapy. For more details and how to book an appointment, people are urged to call 619-685-2500.