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Free access to monoclonal antibodies for high-risk Massachusetts coronavirus patients

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EU regulator authorizes Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for kids 5-11

People at high risk for serious coronavirus infections who have been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 can now find free access to monoclonal antibody treatment at three state-run mobile sites, Gov. Charlie Baker announced.

“These mobile sites enable individuals with early COVID-19 or who have been exposed to COVID-19 to be treated quickly and safely with monoclonal antibody infusion,” said Acting Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke. “While the best protection against COVID-19 is vaccination, these therapies can help prevent hospitalization and severe illness for infected or exposed high-risk individuals.”

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-created antibodies that mimic those naturally generated by the body to fight viruses and can help boost the immune response. The therapies have been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of disease and keeping COVID-19-positive individuals from being hospitalized, officials said.

The new state-run mobile clinics have the capacity to treat a combined 500 patients per week. Two of the clinics are already running in Fall River and Holyoke, where medics began administering monoclonal antibody treatment to patients on Nov. 22. A third clinic will open in Everett on Dec. 3.

The mobile clinic sites can be relocated easily based on demand and officials pointed out they are ready to be deployed to provide monoclonal antibodies in nursing homes, assisted living residences, and congregate care settings that have been hard-hit by coronavirus. Massachusetts residents can now receive monoclonal antibody treatment at 32 publicly available locations. A map of sites can be found using the state’s Monoclonal Antibody Therapy Locator.

Texas-based emergency management company Gothams is operating the mobile clinics in partnership with the Department of Public Health.

The cost of operating the mobile clinics was not immediately known. But officials said treatment is provided at no cost to the patient and offered regardless of immigration status or health insurance.

A similar program in Florida for 25 state-run monoclonal antibody sites has cost $244.8 million since August, according to a Miami Herald report. State lawmakers there have earmarked another $634.3 million in case the state ends up needing more medications for a future coronavirus surge.

The money is reimbursable by federal authorities.

Monoclonal antibodies are administered through a single intravenous infusion into a patient’s arm during a process that takes 20 to 30 minutes, followed by an hour of patient monitoring. Officials say “the one-time therapy is highly effective in neutralizing the virus and preventing symptoms from worsening,” if administered within 10 days of onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

COVID-positive or exposed patients age 12 and older at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness are eligible to receive monoclonal antibody treatment, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization. A referral from a health care provider is required.

Cooke encouraged people with questions about whether this treatment is right for them to discuss it with their health care providers.

For more information about accessing this treatment, visit Mass.gov.

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Editorial: China getting away with murder

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Editorial: China getting away with murder

Davos is a place out of “Lost Horizon,” the 1933 novel that told of a magical Shangri-La. In Switzerland, that’s Davos.

But musings from a mountainous utopia is the last thing the world needs right now. As the wire services say of this past week’s virtual economic conference in Davos, the event is known for “hosting elites touting high-minded but often empty goals deemed out of touch with regular people.” Welcome to pandemic postulating. They hope to meet live in May, so all hope is not lost.

This past week, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and sidekick Bill Gates waxed about climate change.

The World Health Organization spoke about vaccine inequities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pushed for “win-win outcomes” and sharing of vaccine technology. This coming from a country that ignores intellectual property rights.

They should have invited the Herald to the virtual conference, because we’d counter with what the world really needs: For starters, China should apologize to everyone for caring more about their economy than the health of the world.

The slow walk to sharing news of a killer pneumonia outbreak has doomed the rest of us to COVID-19 fears and frustrations. That’s a topic that should have been at the top of the agenda in Davos. If you have an outbreak, of any kind, alert the world immediately. China, you failed to do so and that has caused economic pain.

Why we tip-toe around the Chinese is baffling.

China’s president announced plans during the Davos mini-forum to send an additional 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to other countries, including a donation of 600 million doses to Africa, according to the Associated Press.

That’s reactive rather than proactive. The world economy — all the places below the towering ski slopes of Davos where the hot chocolate flows — is tied to public health. So why not use this august gathering, virtual or not, to warn China that triggering a pandemic comes with consequences?

Intel Corp., the Wall Street Journal reports, gets it. The company announced Friday it plans to invest at least $20 billion in new chip-making capacity in Ohio. If China wants to rule the marketplace, then CEOs need to push back hard.

It’s time to send a message that openness is not up for debate. If the WHO won’t scold China, Davos must. Thugs only react to force. Russian President Vladimir Putin is in this category as well.

If China won’t admit guilt and vow to never slow walk an outbreak again, then they should be banned from the May session in Davos. Spring will be upon us then and the virus, hopefully, might already be easing. But world economic leaders should not forget the harm done.

The Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker shows nearly 345 million COVID cases worldwide with almost 5.6 million deaths as of this weekend. Go look at that grim tally. What you’ll see is China has fallen to 118th on a world count of cases.

The U.S. is first, followed by India, Spain, Argentina, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Canada, Portugal, Israel, Netherlands, Greece, Russia, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Mexico, Colombia, Vietnam, Philippines, Sweden, Peru, Ireland, Poland, Japan, Austria, Bolivia, Serbia, Norway, South Africa, Ukraine, Romania, Croatia, Thailand, Uruguay, Hungary, Finland, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Panama, Bulgaria … past Iceland and tiny Luxembourg until you hit China.

That should be enough fodder for the elites at Davos to once and for all put China on notice.

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Yessenia, 15, loves fashion, dancing

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Yessenia, 15, loves fashion, dancing

Yessenia is a teen girl of Puerto Rican descent. Yessenia is shy but opens up once she gets to know you. She lights up when dancing with friends and is considered very caring among those who know her best. She loves fashion and enjoys trying on different outfits and jewelry. Yessenia enjoys school and is described as a hard worker. She is very compassionate and kind to others.

Legally freed for adoption, Yessenia will need a family that will allow her continued contact and visits with her two younger brothers. She would do best in a two-parent or single-female family with or without other children. She would like to have a family that is supportive of her relationship with her siblings and her mother.

Who can adopt?

Can you provide the guidance, love and stability that a child needs?  If you’re at least 18 years old, have a stable source of income and room in your heart, you may be a perfect match to adopt a waiting child. Adoptive parents can be single, married or partnered; experienced or not; renters or homeowners; LGBTQ singles and couples.

The process to adopt a child from foster care requires training, interviews and home visits to determine if adoption is right for you, and if so, to help connect you with a child or sibling group that your family will be a good match for.

To learn more about adoption from foster care, call the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange at 617-964-6273 or go to mareinc.org. The sooner you call, the sooner a waiting child will have a permanent place to call home.

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Klietmann: Omicron is serious business, not reason for panic

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Moderna: Initial booster data shows good results on omicron

Scientists have long known that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, would continually evolve. That’s just what viruses do — they mutate to spread and survive.

The new omicron variant possesses several mutations to evade antibodies induced by vaccinations and previous natural infections. That’s why cases are reaching record levels in many countries, including the United States, which reported over 1 million daily cases in early January. Even vaccinated and previously infected people are vulnerable.

Those characteristics demand a cautious — but not alarmist — response by politicians, public health officials and ordinary people.

There is good news: Omicron seems to possess a lower pathogenicity than earlier strains of the virus — though exactly how much lower is still under review. But by now, it’s clear that the vast majority of those infected will only get mild symptoms.

But there’s bad news too: Omicron spreads much, much faster than earlier variants. And it’s about 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious in fully vaccinated people than the delta variant, according to a new Danish study.

We should not downplay this danger. We have to consider that the vaccine-induced immunity (also in recovered patients) has a considerably reduced efficiency against this new variant. More scientific data will be published within a few weeks from in vitro assays which are already being performed. The unvaccinated population will be easily overrun by this new agent. These are the facts of major concern and could result in a very threatening winter pandemic of 2022 when the new wave of omicron infections comes on top of the present rising pandemic caused by the delta variant.

With more testing it is evident that many people are virus-shedders, even triple-vaccinated adults, who otherwise don’t feel sick. Meanwhile, omicron spreads with exponential doubling times of roughly two days. This will lead in a short time span to the infection of everybody in the country.

The sheer number of infections, even if a lower percentage of patients are severely ill, could still overwhelm the limited capacity of our emergency rooms, hospitals and the worn-out physicians and nurses — and also upend the economy. The collapse of the health care system in many places is foreseeable and unavoidable. We already witnessed the grounding of the major airlines in this holiday season. The trucking industry will be impacted by sick drivers, the supply chains for hospitals, pharmacies and food will be interrupted or stall completely.

None of this is cause for panic, however. The U.S. government has wisely not increased pandemic restrictions over the holidays, knowing that lock-downs would have been met with much opposition. In fact, the CDC shortened the quarantine period for patients to five days to stabilize the economy.

The economy, our public life and regular cultural and human interactions are essential. The rampant drug abuse with high overdose mortality is a direct consequence of nearly two years of isolation and confinement weighing on the youngest members of our society. The pandemic-related restrictions on health care access for many patients with chronic diseases or cancer resulted in delayed treatments and bad outcomes.

The scientific community responded admirably to the crisis, developing not just multiple vaccines, but also antiviral pills — like Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Molnupiravir — that sharply reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

But science alone cannot guide us through this challenge, which is as much a political and social issue as it is a medical one. We need to balance public health with the demands of our society and find practical and sound solutions to preserve a maximum of personal freedom and assure a minimum of human sacrifice.

In short, there is no reason for despair, but we need to take this unfolding surge very seriously.


Dr. Wolfgang Klietmann is a former clinical pathologist and medical microbiologist at Harvard Medical School. 

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