Woman gets COVID antibody treatment through UCSF Fresno as site prepares to offer it to more people

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – On Friday morning, Firebaugh resident Mayra Arana received monoclonal antibody treatment at the UCSF Fresno testing and vaccination site, and the site plans to soon offer the treatment to more people who qualify.

“COVID has so far been pretty, it’s what they call it, it is very bad. Headaches, the chills, the body aches, the congestion, feeling like I can’t breathe, and that’s like the worst for me,” Arana said.

She said she was fully vaccinated and that she and her family recently tested positive for COVID-19.

“She has a known COVID-positive exposure and she’s been symptomatic for less than 10 days. While she has mild symptoms now, we really want to try to jump on that if we can,” said Dr. Kenny Banh, the director of the UCSF Fresno COVID-19 Equity Project. “This treatment is for people with significant diabetes, significant comorbidities, morbidly obese, has underlying cancers and a weakened immune response. The list is pretty extensive but understand, they’re people that have comorbidities that make them at risk for having severe COVID.”

Arana qualified for the treatment because she’s immunocompromised and high risk.

“Me not being able to breathe properly is always something that’s always concerning for me because I do have issues with my lungs since when I had leukemia,” Arana said. “I’m still in remission, but I’m dealing with the aftermath, lung issues.”

Banh said the antibody treatment is meant to help prevent those who are at risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19.

“They are getting antibodies from other patients who have had COVID, filtering them and filtering them out much like you do with donations and donating blood, and then filtering down just to those antibodies, manufacturing them and then giving just those antibodies, so now people who don’t have a good immune response are given an immune response,” Banh said.

Banh said Arana’s oncologist in San Francisco called him about the possibility of the treatment, and the call came just as UCSF Fresno was preparing to offer it at their COVID-19 testing and vaccination site on Shaw Avenue.

“I’m happy I got the call,” Arana said.

Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said there are logistical hurdles with giving the treatment, such as ordering it from the state and manufacturers and finding staff to give the treatment. But he said that more sites are needed.

“Knowing that every patient that gets an infusion today, we may actually save them an ICU hospitalization in just a couple of weeks from now, so it’s definitely worth investing in this,” Vohra said.

Banh said currently, they’re limited in supply.

“My hope is that if we get enough inventory and supply that we can really do it as a mass center just like we do with vaccinations and testing,” Banh said. “I hope it can be a real significant addition for the Valley residents here and keep them safe.”

Banh said they will be adding more information in the coming days on their site regarding the treatment and how to get information if someone is eligible for the treatment.

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