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“The idea behind the treatment is that it will limit the amount of virus in your body, and prevent the progression of the disease and worsening symptoms.”- Temple Health Pumonologist Dr. Vega Sánchez  Courtesy
“The idea behind the treatment is that it will limit the amount of virus in your body, and prevent the progression of the disease and worsening symptoms.”- Temple Health Pumonologist Dr. Vega Sánchez  Courtesy

Temple’s Dr. Vega-Sánchez discusses innovative COVID-19 treatment options

Monoclonal antibody therapies offered at Temple Health can help prevent COVID-19 symptoms from worsening in high-risk patients

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Pulmonologist Dr. Maria Elena Vega-Sánchez joined AL DÍA News to share information about an innovative treatment with monoclonal antibody therapy offered at Temple Health that can help prevent COVID-19 symptoms from worsening in high-risk patients. 
To see if you qualify for this treatment, call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) or request an appointment online.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
AL DÍA News: Can you please tell us about yourself and your journey to Temple Health?

Dr. Vega-Sánchez: I am originally from Ecuador and I came to the United States in 2005 after medical school to continue my medical training at Temple. My native language is Spanish and I see many patients in my clinic whose primary language is Spanish. 

Over the last year, I have treated many patients with COVID-19. The pandemic has taken many lives in our community. I am optimistic that we have a new therapy with monoclonal antibodies that can help prevent symptoms from getting worse in high-risk patients.

ADN: Can you tell us more about this new treatment offered at the Temple Lung Center? How does it work?

DVS: We want to provide our patients with the opportunity to receive this medication that can prevent severe COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization. 

When a virus enters your body, your immune system makes antibodies to fight it off. However, it takes some time for your body to make antibodies to a new virus, and you can get very sick in the meantime. The monoclonal antibody treatment is similar to the antibodies found in people who have recovered from COVID-19. The idea behind the treatment is that it will limit the amount of virus in your body, and prevent the progression of the disease and worsening symptoms.

ADN: When should someone consider receiving this therapy?

DVS: Anyone with risk factors should consider this therapy as soon as they receive a positive COVID-19 test. Many times, patients feel okay for the first few days but then they can quickly get sicker. 

Even though you might have mild symptoms initially, your symptoms can worsen over time and you may require hospitalization later. Patients who develop severe symptoms like shortness of breath and low oxygen levels need to be hospitalized to receive oxygen therapy. Unfortunately, there are no specific therapies to treat COVID-19. Patients with severe disease are at increased risk of dying. The therapy with monoclonal antibodies can help prevent this from happening.

ADN: Who qualifies as a high-risk patient?

DVS: High-risk patients are defined as people who:

• Have chronic kidney disease

• Have diabetes

• Are obese (body mass index greater than 35)

• Have immunosuppressive diseases

• Are currently receiving immunosuppressive medications 

• Are 65 years or older

• Are 55 years of age and have cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other pulmonary diseases

ADN: How do these treatments differ from the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines?

DVS: The vaccines are provided to patients to prevent them from getting infected with COVID-19. 

Temple Health gives the monoclonal antibodies to high-risk patients that already have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last ten days, who have mild to moderate symptoms and are not hospitalized. The key is to prevent severe disease at all costs. If you or someone you know gets infected with COVID-19, there are options that can prevent the progression of this disease.

The initial visit will be done via telemedicine. We will see if you qualify for the monoclonal antibody therapy. Patients who qualify for this treatment will have a follow-up appointment in person in the hospital where they will receive the medication through the vein for about an hour. The nurse will monitor your vital signs, and then you are free to go home.

ADN: How does someone who already tested positive for COVID-19 and is at high-risk find out more?

DVS: If you or your loved one are diagnosed with COVID-19, I would recommend that you make an appointment with the Temple Lung Center. You can leave it up to our experts to decide if you qualify for the treatment. We have Spanish-speaking physicians and translators ready to answer your questions.

You can call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) or request an appointment online with a Temple physician.

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