Chula Vista, county officials and San Ysidro Health Center staff discuss the new monoclonal antibody treatment center at a press conference. Screenshot from ABC 10 pool video
Chula Vista, county officials and San Ysidro Health Center staff discuss the new monoclonal antibody treatment center at a press conference. Screenshot from ABC 10 pool video

Monoclonal antibody treatment will be available at no cost in the South Bay for COVID-19-positive people in danger of hospitalization, San Diego County and Chula Vista officials announced Monday.

Interested people will be asked a series of health questions, but a physician referral is not needed for the treatment at the former Fire Station 5, 391 Oxford St. in Chula Vista, said county Supervisor Nora Vargas at a press conference.

“This is a great opportunity for South Bay residents to seek early COVID-19 treatment to reduce the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization emergency visits, so they can return to their daily routines,” Vargas said.

Eligibility requirements are a person must have tested positive for COVID-19, had the onset of symptoms in the last 10 days, be at least 12 years old, weigh at least 88 pounds (40 kg) and are at a high risk of progressing to a more serious illness.

The one-hour treatment will be available to people regardless of immigration status or health insurance, she said. The center will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.seven days a week beginning Tuesday.

The equity of the treatment is important, Vargas said, noting the high incidence of COVID infections in the South Bay.

The Monoclonal Antibody Regional Center (MARC) run by San Ysidro Health Center is the second such center in San Diego County. Palomar Medical Center in Escondido already is giving the treatment.

Monoclonal antibodies, which have been know to reduce hospitalizations and death, have been use for COVID-19 patients nationwide since November 2020. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorizations for two types of monoclonal antibody treatments.

Such antibodies work by blocking the effect of the COVID-19 virus in patients that are already infected. Former President Trump received the treatment for his COVID-19 infection.

To make an appointment for the treatment, call 619-685-2500. Bilingual staff will assist on the phone calls.

“It’s really important to understand that the monoclonal antibody treatment does not actually contain any of the COVID virus,” said Councilwoman Andrea Cardenas.

The life-saving treatment is an intravenous infusion, and medical staff monitor patients for 45 minutes to an hour to make sure no adverse reactions follow. Side effects can include chills, headache and nausea. There are rare severe reactions.

Treatments are not for people who are already hospitalized or are in need of additional oxygen.

Dr. Jennifer Tuteur,  deputy chief medical officer for county, said medical trials for treatments have shown a 70% reduction in hospitalizations and death.

She encouraged people testing positive for COVID-19 to seek treatment as soon as possible.

At the same timej, Tuteur stressed that people should follow the five “Ws”:
wear your mask, wash your hands, walk away from crowds, wait at home if you are sick or have been in contact with someone with COVID and when it is your turn, get vaccinated.

The treatment can also help the health system by preserving hospital capacity and day-to-day emergency medical service, she said. 

Vargas’ District 4 has had one of the highest cases of COVID -19 because many essential workers who live in the area continued their jobs during the pandemic.

People can receive more information from the county at this website.

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