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With some still hesitant about the vaccine, doctors examine effectiveness of Regeneron treatment

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 10:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Various health experts addressed some fears and concerns people have with the COVID vaccine.

“I’m somewhat surprised that people who are possibly against the vaccine are instead hoping that they’ll get treatment with something that’s very similar, actual antibody results of the vaccine,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green who is referring to Regeneron, which is a treatment he recommends for mild COVID cases.

Green said it’s an expensive drug and more difficult to manufacture than the vaccine.

It’s only available at hospitals because patients require significant observation during treatment.

“There is an irony here,” said Green. “Individuals who are choosing not to be vaccinated with an mRNA vaccination are in some cases asking for synthetic antibodies.”

Dr. Dena Towner of maternal fetal medicine at Kapiolani Medical Center says a lot of people are worried about mRNA.

Unlike older vaccines which introduce weakened viruses into the body, mRNA teaches cells to trigger an immune response.

Towner said the technique has been used for over a decade.

“A lot of people are fearful of what’s in the vaccination and one of the things I see that as, when I explain it to people, that it’s really just a little tiny molecule of RNA, which by itself will degrade and just go poof really fast,” Towner explained.

“And it’s starting to be used across many cancers for the body to fight cancer,” said Towner. “So, it’s not a new technology, it’s just a new piece of RNA that went into that molecule. The department of health says vaccine hesitancy is also contributing to the forming of new variants around the world.

“So many more of the unvaccinated end up infected,” said Dr. Tim Brown of East-West Center Senior Fellow. “And number two, the unvaccinated also remained with a higher viral load for an extended period, which means that they will be capable of developing new variants for a much longer period of time than vaccinated individuals.”

Brown said the viral load for a vaccinated person is 4-5 days, but for the unvaccinated, it’s more than double that, 10 to 11 days.

Even though breakthrough cases are on the rise, doctors say the symptoms are almost always less severe in vaccinated people.

“And we’re estimating right now, we’re seeing anywhere between 25 to 35% of all of our positives are breaking through the vaccine,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich of Premier Medical Group. “And again, I want to highlight that these individuals end up not being very serious.”

Booster shots are also starting to get recommended, but doctors don’t think the vaccine needs to be re-worked.

“We’ll have to adjust our vaccines and get another shot to protect ourselves, but that hasn’t happened yet,” said Epidemiologist, Dr. DeWolfe Miller. “We’re expecting to see many new variants emerge.”

Brown said vaccines by themselves are just a part of the solution adding that masking and improved ventilation can help prevent the spread.

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