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New clinic in Butte will offer monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19

gianforte butte clinic mtpr.jpg
Corin Cates-Carney
Montana Public Radio
Gov. Greg Gianforte stands outside St. James Health in Butte on Thursday to announce a new monoclonal antibody treatment clinic. Hospital staff say the treatment can help prevent hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19, but it is not a solution or cure to COVID-19 and continue to encourage Montanans to get vaccinated.

The state of Montana has opened a new clinic for treating COVID-19 at St. James Health in Butte.

Gov. Greg Gianforte says the clinic will offer monoclonal antibody treatment, which aids the immune system in fighting the virus.

“It will provide more Montanans access to early treatment like the elderly and those with severe underlying health conditions," he said at a news conference Thursday.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization for monoclonal antibody treatment for mild-to-moderate COVID-19 cases in people who have tested positive for the virus and who are at high risk of having a severe case.

The treatment is already available in 41 counties in Montana. Gianforte says the Butte clinic is a pilot project run by a private contractor that will help free up hospital staff time. It can treat up to 12 patients a day.

“We ask for your help," said St. James chief medical officer Jennifer Davenport. "We really do need some relief from all the patients that are infected with COVID-19.”

Davenport says monoclonal antibody treatments are not a solution to COVID, it’s a treatment that can help reduce hospitalizations and death.

Katy Peterson, a spokesperson for the Montana Hospital Association, said in a statement to MTPR that “with hospitals operating in their 9th consecutive week at or above capacity, we must employ every tool in the toolbox to prevent disease, save lives and protect essential health care services.”

Neil Ku, an infectious disease specialist at Billings Clinic, says there is some benefit to monoclonal antibody treatments, but they’re not a silver bullet against COVID-19.

“It's never been intended to replace vaccination," he said.

Gianforte says although the state will not mandate vaccines, vaccines are the best long-term solution to this crisis.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio

Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.