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Asante closing drive-thru clinic that offers lab-made antibodies

Mail Tribune/file photo Asante is closing its drive-thru clinic that offers shots of lab-made antibodies after research showed the treatment isn’t effective against the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Treatment not effective against omicron variant of COVID-19

Asante is closing its Medford drive-thru clinic that offers lab-made antibodies after research showed the treatment isn’t effective against the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Drug-maker Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment was highly effective against the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. But the lab-made antibodies have not been shown to be effective against disease caused by the omicron variant.

Asante said its antibody clinic will close Saturday.

Patients at risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 had been able to get a set of four shots that helped prevent hospitalization.

“There is no doubt this therapy did its job at the height of the delta surge and kept hundreds of people out of the hospital,” said Doug Ward, vice president of operations for Asante Physician Partners.

More than 80% of local COVID-19 cases are now caused by the omicron variant, and that percentage is expected to rise. Just one week ago, suspected cases of omicron were reported at 25%, Asante said.

Asante opened the drive-thru clinic Aug. 31, 2021, after the four-shot treatment was developed. Monoclonal antibodies previously had to be administered through an intravenous infusion, which took longer.

“The clinic was one of the first of its kind in the nation and the demand was enormous,” Ward said.

Asante said people from across the state came to the drive-thru clinic, where staff typically saw an average of 40 people a day and administered about 1,700 treatments during the site’s four months of operation.

Studies predicted that for every seven people treated with the antibodies, one hospitalization was prevented.

Vaccination, which prompts the body to make its own antibodies against the COVID-19 virus, still helps prevent severe illness from the omicron variant, especially when people get a booster shot, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.