UF Health launches pilot program to deliver COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy to rural communities, including Columbia County

There’s a new treatment option that could help keep people who have COVID-19 out of the hospital.

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It’s called bamlanivimab, or bam-infusion, a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy.

Not all hospitals have the supply.

UF Health is launching a pilot program that would bring the therapy to rural communities where access to healthcare is an issue.

It’s part of the White House’s Operation Warp Speed initiative.

UF Health said the pilot program will be offered first in Columbia County and surrounding rural counties and later expanded to other counties.

Dr. Michael Lauzardo, deputy director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute, is leading the deliver and administration of the drug.

“One of the unsung heroes in the fight against COVID has been these monoclonal antibodies,” Dr. Lauzardo said.

Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies that are produced in the laboratory, which act like natural antibodies to limit the amount of virus in your body.

Bamlanivimab contains man-made antibodies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for bamlanivimab Nov. 10.

Dr. Lauzardo said bamlanivimab is an effective early intervention treatment.

“There’s stronger evidence that it stops people from going to the hospital. They can recover faster and get fewer complications,” Dr. Lauzardo said.

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As part of the pilot program, Dr. Lauzardo said they are going to have a mobile infusion center to bring the therapy to hard-to-reach communities.

“That’s something we’re really looking forward to, getting people the help that they need,” Dr. Lauzardo said.

UF Health will offer the treatment free of charge to people 65 and older within 10 days of a positive COVID-19 test, and to younger adults at higher risk. People hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 are not eligible to receive the treatment.

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