LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — This month, UK Healthcare received a shipment of EvuSheld, a monoclonal antibody drug that fights COVID-19.
The State distributed the small shipment to UK, and it was enough for 72 people. UK Healthcare said all of the doses went to patients who are severely immune-suppressed like cancer and transplant patients.
Lexington woman and mother of two, Sarah Lister, is one of the people who received EvuSheld.
She was diagnosed with leukemia and had a bone marrow transplant in 2016. Since then, her body has continuously rejected the transplant. To counteract that, she has to take immunosuppressants.
Immunosuppressants are good for her transplant, but bad for fighting viruses like COVID-19.
Because of those, along with other treatments she undergoes, the Moderna vaccine was ineffective for her.
(Note: According to UK Healthcare physician Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates, not all patients who are severely immune-compromised have this reaction. Some find that the vaccine is effective for them.)
"That was a huge disappointment because that was a huge thing I was hanging my hopes on," Sarah Lister said.
Because it didn't work, she was forced to continue quarantining at home with her family, while terrified of the virus.
Then, UK Healthcare called and asked if she was interested in getting a drug called Evusheld in January.
"When they called I said I will be there in 5 minutes," said Lister. “Just hold the needles in the air and I will come run into them when I get there!"
She had already done her research and she knew the drug would be a good fit.
The monoclonal antibodies in Evusheld would increase her immunity against COVID for at least 6 months.
"We are all very very excited about this drug," Dr. Ashley Montgomery-Yates, a UK Healthcare physician, said.
Montgomery-Yates called EvuSheld a "game-changer" for people who are severely immune-suppressed and did not have luck with the COVID-19 vaccine.
"It will just eliminate some of their risk and their fear," she said. "It means that they have less of a chance of ending up in an ICU on a ventilator which is, I think, huge for some of them."
For Lister, it means more peace of mind.
"I know that if I were to be exposed, I would likely not end up on a ventilator, which makes me sleep so much better," she said.
Since it isn't a silver bullet, there's still a risk, according to Montgomery-Yates. It's a risk that would be mitigated with widespread vaccination, further protecting our severely immune-suppressed population.
"These people are doing everything right, and because we have this huge unvaccinated population that is still spreading the virus, they are the ones that are getting the brunt of it," Montgomery-Yates said.
"For as long as people are expressing their freedoms by not wearing a mask, not getting the vaccine, that is directly impacting me and my family and our abilities to do the things that we want to do," Lister said.
She urges people to reconsider if they have not received the vaccine. She is anxious to get back to a life where her 9-year-old son, Charlie, and 14-year-old, Thomas, can play with other kids without worrying whether they'll bring the virus home to their vulnerable mother.
"As more people embrace protecting themselves and their families against COVID, you will be then helping my family get back to society," Lister said.
Despite the mental health struggles that come with nearly two years of isolation, she said she chooses to stay positive.
"I continue to believe that there are better days ahead," she said. "And until we can have our better days outside of the home we're just doing everything we can to have those better days inside the home."
UK Healthcare expects to receive another shipment of EvuSheld soon. They ask that you do not reach out to your doctor to ask for a dose. Only those who are severely immune-suppressed will receive the drug and UK will reach out patients directly.