DETROIT – If you couldn’t receive the vaccine because of an allergy or other reaction, or your immune system is severely compromised because, for example, you’ve had a transplant or you’re on chemotherapy. The vaccine isn’t going to be as protective.
In cases like these, special protection from a drug called Evusheld is precisely what the doctor ordered.
“Evusheld is not the same as the vaccine,” said Dennis Cunningham. “Evusheld is specifically for people with weakened immune systems.”
Dr. Cunningham is the System Medical Director for Infection Control and Prevention at the Henry Ford Health System.
“It combines two different monoclonal antibodies together,” Dr. Cunningham said. “What’s nice, this one is given as an injection. It’s an injection into the muscle in your arm, and it lasts for at least five months which is different; the other monoclonal antibodies will work for about three months; this ones great because essentially twice a year, you can protect our most vulnerable patients. Initially, we had very low quantities of it, so we were reserving it for the most severely immunocompromised people, organ transplants, bone marrow transplants, the supply’s a lot better now, so we’re able to give it to more people.”
Candidates for the extra protections Evusheld offers include transplant patients on immunosuppressant therapy, chemotherapy patients, people on any medications that may suppress the immune system, including high dose steroids, advanced or untreated HIV patients, as well as people with other moderate to severe immunocompromise from other medical conditions.
“The Evusheld is something to help them, give them a little bit more protection, and between vaccination and the Evusheld, we’re really doing everything possible we can do to keep the virus from causing severe disease in those patients,” Dr. Cunningham said.
When Evusheld first became available, it was in extremely short supply. But, as Dr. Cunningham mentioned, for the most part, the supply has caught up with demand, so if you fit any of the immune-compromised conditions eligible for this extra protection, you should contact your doctor to get the antibodies that can protect you for months before an exposure.
Variants like omicron have affected the usefulness of the Evusheld because the monoclonal antibodies target specific areas on the spike, protein variants like omicron can be a problem.
In fact, several of the older monoclonal antibody treatments are simply ineffective against omicron. Evusheld is mostly effective, and the FDA has actually increased the dose of the injection to make up for the difference in effectiveness.