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Monoclonal Antibodies: A Treatment Option for COVID-19

What Are Monoclonal Antibodies?

Monoclonal antibodies are among the most promising treatments for mild to moderate COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Monoclonal antibodies are just like your body's antibodies but selected for their strong ability to resist the virus. They are produced like a medication and help your body fight illness. In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization to permit monoclonal antibodies as a treatment option for COVID-19.

To learn more about Monoclonal Antibody Treatment for COVID-19, and to see if you qualify, please call 866-804-5251.

How are antibodies made?

Antibodies are proteins made by your body's immune system that fight off infections, including infections caused by viruses. Your body can remember how to make antibodies if you are exposed to the same germ again.

How Do Monoclonal Antibodies Treat COVID-19?

How does monoclonal antibody treatment work?

After entering your body, monoclonal antibodies look for and attach to the spike protein that sticks out of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

When monoclonal antibodies attach to the spike protein, they can block the virus's ability to enter cells — and slow down the infection.

In 2020, the FDA authorized several different monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19. UPMC has one monoclonal antibody infusion treatment product, sotrovimab.

How effective are monoclonal antibodies?

According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, early clinical data show that monoclonal antibodies can successfully reduce COVID-19 hospitalization rates. Clinical trials have shown that these treatments can decrease hospitalizations and emergency department visits. They can also reduce the amount of virus found in an infected person's blood.

An analysis of UPMC patients who received monoclonal antibodies found the treatment has significantly cut the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Read more about this study.

Health officials continue to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the treatments, and clinical trials are ongoing.

It isn't yet known if monoclonal antibodies protect against future COVID-19 infections.

Prioritization Guidelines

UPMC follows FDA guidelines and to ensure treatment remains available to those who are most likely to benefit, patients will be prioritized based on risk of severe disease.

Monoclonal Antibody Treatment at UPMC

Who is eligible for monoclonal antibody treatment?

Due to scarce supply, eligibility criteria are currently prioritized for the following patients:

  • Positive PCR or Antigen test for SARS-COV-2 AND:
  • Mild-moderate symptoms for 7 days or less (must still be symptomatic), AND:
  • One of the following medical conditions:
    • Pregnancy
    • B-cell depleting therapy (Rituximab / Ocrelizumab / Ofatumumab)
    • Ibrutinib or acalabrutinib therapy
    • Fingolimod/siponimod/ozanimod/ponesimod therapy
    • Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-T) therapy
    • Hematopoietic cell transplant
    • Graft-versus-host disease
    • Hematological malignancy
    • Solid organ transplant
    • Severe primary immunodeficiency
    • AIDS (CD4 <200 or <15%)
    • Age 65 or older and loss of 2 or more activities of daily living

Note: Monoclonal antibody treatment needs to be given within 7 days of the start of symptoms. 

Para información en español acerca del tratamiento con anticuerpos monoclonales en UPMC, haga clic aquí

How to find out if you qualify and to receive monoclonal antibodies treatment

Potential patients can find out if they qualify by speaking to their doctor. Patients and providers can also call 866-804-5251 for help.

Bill F, Monoclonal Antibody Patient Testimony

"I got my positive COVID test on Palm Sunday and I began to feel the respiratory issue the following Thursday. … It turned out I was eligible [for monoclonal antibodies] and I went for the infusion on Good Friday. For me, the infusion seemed to have a rapid and positive effect in helping to arrest the progress of the virus and speeding the path to recovery." - Bill F.

Kristin DeLuca | Monoclonal Antibodies

“I would 1,000% encourage anyone who thinks they might have COVID-19, whether they’re vaccinated or not, to get tested and get monoclonal antibodies if you’re eligible,” said Kristin DeLuca about receiving sotrovimab, a COVID-19 outpatient treatment, at UPMC South Side.

Read Kristin's story and more about receiving monoclonal antibodies in outpatient setting.

The treatment and results of these patients may not be representative of all similar cases.

What to Expect During Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

Monoclonal antibodies is a treatment given in an outpatient clinic through an IV/needle in your arm or it may be several shots given during one visit, that should help to keep your symptoms from getting worse.

Research studies show that it should be effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms from becoming severe and that patients who receive the treatment are less likely to get sicker leading to an Emergency Department visit or needing to be admitted to the hospital.

The IV infusion involves placing a needle in a vein and slowly sending the medicine through the IV and into the body. The infusion takes about 30 minutes.

The injections involve giving four shots, each one in a different location (arms, thighs, stomach,) during one office visit. The injections take about five to 10 minutes to give. After the IV is removed medicine is given, patients must wait at least 30 minutes so health care workers can watch for side effects. Patients should expect the entire visit to take anywhere from one to two hours.

To learn more about what to expect when receiving a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment and who is eligible to receive this treatment, watch the video below featuring Dr. J. Ryan Bariola, Medical Director of UPMC Community Hospital Antimicrobial Stewardship Efforts, Infectious Diseases.

For a closer look at what treatment looks like for patients, check out Kim's story

Monoclonal Antibody Treatment: Frequently Asked Questions

What are the side effects of monoclonal antibodies?

The most common reported side effects for bamlanivimab/etesevimab are:

  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid/slow heart rate
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Confusion

The most common reported side effects for casirivimab/imdevimab are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Pneumonia

IV infusions and injections also can cause brief pain, bleeding, skin bruising, soreness, swelling, and infection at the location where it was given.

Monoclonal antibodies may cause other side effects. Talk to your doctor if you experience any side effect that bothers you or does not go away quickly.

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have had antibody treatment?

Monoclonal antibody provides treatment for COVID-19 disease or prevents development of disease after an exposure. If you receive monoclonal antibody, it remains important to be vaccinated to prevent serious illness in the future. If you received monoclonal antibodies because you had illness due to COVID-19, wait 90 days before getting any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

If you received monoclonal antibodies after being exposed to COVID-19, wait 30 days before getting a COVID vaccine.

If you already received one or both doses of the vaccine and you are eligible, you can receive monoclonal antibody treatment.

Can you receive monoclonal antibodies treatment if you already received the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you already received one or both doses of the vaccine and you are eligible, you can receive this treatment.

What is the cost of monoclonal antibody treatment?

Check with your insurance provider for more information on the cost of monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19.

Where does monoclonal antibody treatment at UPMC take place?

If you test positive for COVID-19, and have symptoms for 7 (seven) days or less, AND meet the guidelines to receive monoclonal antibodies you will be directed to visit one of our clinics where providers can administer available monoclonal antibody treatments in a safe environment.

Is this treatment safe?

In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to allow monoclonal antibodies as a treatment option for COVID-19.

Information for UPMC and Non-UPMC Health Care Providers

  • Ordering Monoclonal Antibody Infusion for Patients
  • Criteria for patient treatment
  • Limitation of use
  • Treatment fact sheets
Treatment Information for Medical Providers

Information about Monoclonal Antibody Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for Immunocompromised Patients

Evusheld is a potent new COVID-19 protective measure (monoclonal antibody) designed to prevent COVID-19 infection in vulnerable and immunocompromised individuals.

Learn more about this medication.