Monoclonal antibody treatments making difference for some patients

Monoclonal antibody treatments are making a difference for some patients at the University of Kansas Health System.

The treatments are given, usually on an outpatient basis, to patients who are in the early days of their struggle with COVID-19.

At the Monday morning news conference sponsored by the University of Kansas Health System, Paul Van Erem told the story of how he received monoclonal infusion therapy after contracting COVID-19.

A few months ago, the 63-year-old retiree was feeling a lot of tightness in his chest, he said, and a headache. COVID-19 was going through his family, but the family was most worried about Paul with his age, liver disease, diabetes and immune deficiency, he said.

He said he felt better in a day after receiving the monoclonal antibodies, his chest wasn’t as tight, and his headache was gone. In another day, he said he was back in his shop doing woodworking.

“I didn’t feel like I was being brave at all,” he said about getting the monoclonal antibody treatment. He had heard about the long-term effects of COVID-19, and it was an opportunity to make sure he would be there for his family.

He received bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody, at the KU Health System infusion clinic. The antibody has received emergency use authorization, and Van Erem was only the 13th person to receive it at the health system.

Dr. Nathan Bahr, an infectious disease specialist, said most people do pretty well with the monoclonal antibody and side effects are pretty rare. There seems to be a decrease in hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

He said high-risk patients generally are eligible to receive this treatment,

Kim Dixon, assistant chief nursing officer, said one of the biggest challenges in giving the antibody treatment is the timing. The infusion should be given within seven days of symptom onset, she said. Many people wait a day or two before tests, then wait 24 to 72 hours for a test result.

“Try to test early so you have those opportunities available for treatment,” Dixon said.

Dixon said patients arriving to the infusion center will receive an intravenous infusion that takes an hour. Then there is about an hour of monitoring before the patient goes home.

Patients have to meet a set of criteria in order to be eligible for the monoclonal antibody treatment. According to the health professionals, patients have to be greater than 40 kg, older than 12, within seven days of symptom onset, confirmed with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19, and not have increased oxygen needs. Those who have other complications may be prioritized.

Those who have questions about whether they can receive the monoclonal antibody treatment may call their primary physician or the health system at 913-588-1900.

The KU Health System also has a trial underway for another monoclonal antibody drug, the active BRII study. Those interested in participating in this trial may contact Luigi Boccardi, study coordinator, at 913-588-4022.

On another topic, Dixon said the health system has given out more than 10,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday morning. Patients have done well, with a few mild reactions of sore arms and fatigue. No reactions were serious enough to go to the emergency room.

COVID-19 case numbers reported

The University of Kansas Health System reported 58 active COVID-19 patients in the hospital, no change since Friday, according to Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control. There were 16 patients in the intensive care unit, a decrease of three since Friday, and 12 of the ICU patients were on ventilators on Monday, an increase of two since Friday. There were an additional 59 COVID-19 patients hospitalized who were out of the acute phase, a decrease of one since Friday. There was a total of 117 COVID-19 patients, a decrease of one since Friday.

The doctors said the seven-day rolling average of new cases in the metro area was down, and they weren’t seeing a surge that they had anticipated after the holidays. They were hoping this was the new normal.

Wyandotte County reported an increase of 122 COVID-19 cases on Monday, Jan. 25, according to the Unified Government’s COVID-19 webpage. There were a cumulative 16,671 cases. There was a cumulative total of 220 deaths, no change since Sunday.

The Mid-America Regional Council’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 143,062 cumulative COVID-19 cases on Sunday. There were 1,744 cumulative deaths, and 126 was the daily average of new hospitalizations.

The state of Kansas reported 269,255 COVID-19 cases statewide on Monday, an increase of 2,602 cases since Friday, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. There were an additional 24 deaths reported, with a cumulative total of 3,622.

The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard on Monday night reported 25,258,210 total cumulative cases in the United States, with 420,830 total deaths nationwide.

Free COVID-19 testing available Tuesday

COVID-19 tests will be available Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the Pierson Community Center parking lot, 1800 S. 55th St., Kansas City, Kansas. Hours are subject to change depending on the weather and other factors. These tests are through WellHealth Management. For more information and to schedule a test, visit

The Unified Government Health Department’s COVID-19 test site at the former Kmart building at 78th and State will be open on Tuesday, Jan. 26, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To see if there is any change to the schedule, visit

The UG Health Department recently added flu testing to the COVID-19 test at the Kmart building. Only one swab is used for the two tests. The Health Department estimates a two- to three-day wait for COVID-19 results. For the flu, the department only contacts people if it is positive.

Tests from the Health Department are free for those who live or work in Wyandotte County. The tests are nasopharyngeal swab tests. The Health Department no longer uses saliva tests.

The tests are open to asymptomatic people as well as those who have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19. Check with the UG Health Department’s Facebook page to see if there have been any changes in the schedule. Bring something that shows that you live or work in Wyandotte County, such as a utility bill.

Wyandotte County residents who are interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine may fill out a survey form at the UG Health Department at Residents will be contacted to make an appointment when vaccine becomes available.

Testing sites are at

For more information about the testing site at the former Kmart location, visit

The KU doctors’ news conference is online at

The new health order on hours for bars and restaurants is at

Information about the new health order on extended hours for bars and restaurants is at

The school health order is online at

A letter explaining the school health order is online at

To see information about the UG giving vaccines to health care workers, visit

The KDHE vaccine report is at

Cards and letters of encouragement for caregivers at KU Health System may be sent to Share Joy, care of Patient Relations, 4000 Cambridge St., Mailstop 1021, Kansas City, Kansas, 66160. Emails can be sent to

Wyandotte County is under a mandatory mask and social distancing order.

The UG COVID-19 webpage is at

The KDHE’s COVID-19 webpage is at

The KC Region COVID-19 Hub dashboard is at

The Wyandotte County page on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 website is at

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