Since December 2021, a drug that can help prevent serious illness in people at highest risk for complications from COVID-19 has been on the market. But some people who might benefit from receiving a breakthrough drug called Evusheld, either hadn’t heard of it or realized they were eligible for it. It’s also difficult for healthcare providers to get Evusheld and get it to people who need the potentially life-saving drug, experts said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Evusheld an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for people who are unable to complete an immunization series due to vaccine-specific allergies and those with weakened immune systems. Available vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune response to produce protective antibodies, but some immunocompromised people may not produce enough of these infection fighters after being vaccinated — that’s where Evusheld comes in.
How does Evusheld work?
Evusheld is a preventive medicine that contains two monoclonal antibodies (tixagevimab and cilgavimab), which are lab-made proteins that mimic the immune system and help fight off harmful substances According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, pathogens. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has spike proteins on its surface that the virus uses to infect you. The monoclonal antibodies in Evusheld specifically help prevent these spike proteins from attaching and entering human cells, according to the FDA.
Evusheld is given in two injections, usually in the buttock area, one right after the other. According to the FDA, this is considered a dose of a drug that can prevent exposure to COVID-19 for up to six months. You must continue to receive injections every six months to maintain protection.
Evusheld is not a treatment for COVID-19, nor is it an “additional” form of protection for otherwise healthy, fully vaccinated individuals, nor is it intended to be a substitute for vaccination, if You, Priya Sampathkumar, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, tell SELF that there are no vaccine-specific allergies.
How effective is Evusheld?
Evusheld reduces the risk of COVID-19 in unvaccinated adults by up to 83%, according to a clinical trial conducted by drug maker AstraZeneca and the U.S. government . Participants included people who were at risk of not developing an adequate immune response through vaccination or who were more likely to be exposed to COVID-19, including health care workers and people working in meatpacking plants.
In February, the FDA updated its dose recommendations for Evusheld, doubling the dose recommended when the EUA was first granted. According to the federal agency, higher doses are more effective against certain omicron sub-variants. “Dose doubling is designed to overcome what we call immune evasion,” said Dr. Sampathkumar. (In these variants, the spike proteins are often mutated, which may allow them to evade some people’s established immunity, according to the National Institutes of Health.)
Scientists are studying how well this Evusheld protects against the new sub-variant. Some early research suggests it may offer some protection against the BA.5 variant that currently dominates the U.S., but the FDA says Evusheld is generally less effective against BA.4 and BA.5 than BA.1, And BA.1 is the number of COVID-19 cases that will dominate in early 2022.
How do I get Evusheld?
To get Evusheld, you must be at least 12 years old, weigh at least 88 pounds, and have no recent infection or intentional exposure to COVID-19, according to the FDA. Only people who do not develop protective antibodies after being vaccinated or who are allergic to the COVID vaccine or vaccine components are eligible.