With the Regeneron Covid-19 Antibody Cocktail in the news due to the response of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to surging Covid-19 levels in Florida, our League of Science Superfriends team has been fielding questions about the effectiveness of this approach versus Covid-19 vaccines. Dr. Jillian Whidby outlines how the most effective approach to preventing Covid-19 related hospitalizations and illness is through vaccination in comparison to the Regeneron treatment.

Dr. Jillian Whidby Dr. Jillian Whidby, PhD

“I think [REGEN-COV] is probably the best thing we can do to reduce the number of people who require hospitalization,”- FL Governor Ron DeSantis

But it’s NOT. The best thing we can do is get vaccinated and mask up while our immune systems kick in to protect us.

Here is what you need to know about the limitations of Regeneron’s COVID-19 Antibody cocktail, REGEN-COV:

  1. It is authorized under EUA, just like the vaccines. So if you have already concluded falsely that you shouldn’t get the vaccine because it is not “FDA approved,” then I assume you don’t want this either. Also like the vaccine, it contains a few necessary and harmless inactive ingredients that you might not be familiar with and is currently available only for people aged 12 and older.
  2. There isn’t enough to go around. Antibodies are time-consuming and expensive to make, particularly relative to the mRNA vaccines. Our government invested a lot more in vaccines and they are available in ample supply. JJ is harder to come by, but still easy enough.
  3. By the time you are desperate enough to admit you need medical intervention, you probably won’t be qualified for REGEN-COV. You must be in a high risk group (for severe disease and hospitalization) and simply exposed (ie, not yet infected) or early in your infection to qualify for this treatment. If your COVID case is so bad that you are finding yourself in the ER and potentially in need of oxygen, it’s too late. In contrast, almost everyone over the age of 12 is qualified for a vaccine, and it will prevent serious disease, hospitalization, and death.
  4. REGEN-COV is administered by IV infusion and takes about an hour; it must be done at the hospital. Even though your insurance (if you have it) will likely pay for the drug itself, which costs $1200 per dose, it may or may not cover the rest of your hospital-related expenses. Many overwhelmed hospitals don’t even have the staff or the room availability to provide this treatment right now. In contrast, the vaccine is administered in 1 or 2 quick shots at your local pharmacy for free.
  5. REGEN-COV has some side effects, as with any prescribed or OTC pharmaceutical. These include severe and mild allergic reactions, fever, chills, and IV-associated reactions. The main side effects of the vaccine (lasting about a day) are sore arm, fatigue, and headache. There are stronger vaccine side effects in people who have been naturally infected prior to vaccination and following the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vax.

Conclusion: There is no comparison. You need to get vaccinated and wear a mask. These are far superior options to getting very sick and potentially landing yourself in a crowded and understaffed hospital, or relying on treatments that are not that easy to get.

Side note: NO, ivermectin is not proving useful for the treatment of COVID in clinical trials, although there are over 300 other vaccines and treatments undergoing thorough and appropriate testing. We can continue to hope for better options, but there is no point clinging to the idea of drugs that don’t work. Right now, please appreciate the truly life-saving science that is being handed out for free. And if you’ve already gotten your shot(s), be mindful of upcoming booster recommendations.