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Recipient, UPMC doctors talk about ‘Evusheld’ antibody shots

PITTSBURGH — A South Hills man is among the roughly 1,000 UPMC patients to have received “Evusheld,” a monoclonal antibody cocktail.

Developed by AstraZeneca, the injectable drug is the first of its kind to have received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. Recipients must be older than 12 and must be immunocompromised.

Mitchell Barutha, of Mt. Lebanon, received the drug last week. He is a heart transplant recipient, and his body did not produce antibodies after receiving Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine plus a booster.

“Because of the anti-rejection drugs it just never, never took hold to be able to build antibodies,” he told Channel 11.

Now, with Evusheld, he has another shot at building protection against COVID-19, and so far, he hasn’t developed any side effects.

“I haven’t had any symptoms, I’ve been fine,” said Barutha. “I’m pretty hopeful that this is going to work.”

Barutha spoke with Channel 11 on Monday, ahead of a news conference with UPMC leaders. Doctors said that Evusheld is showing promise, but should not be treated as a substitute for the vaccines.

Dr. Donald Yealy, Chief Medical Officer, stressed that individuals who are eligible to receive Evusheld should still get vaccinated against COVID-19, and even then, catching the virus is still possible.

“Both vaccines and Evusheld will not put up a force field around you, but they’ll allow you to fight off any contact you have with the virus,” Yealy said.

Channel 11 News reporter Liz Kilmer asked the doctors how effective Evusheld has been against the Omicron variant, specifically.

“It’s kind of early yet to know with Omicron because we’ve only been using Evusheld for a few weeks, but my expectation is that it will provide protection that is much better than not having Evusheld,” Dr. Yealy said.

“At this point in time, it’s very much our belief and support that the Evusheld drug works very well in stimulating antibodies against all forms of the virus right now,” said Tami Minnier, chief quality and operational excellence officer.

Minnier said that supply is limited, but the system did recently receive another shipment on top of the 1,000 doses that have already been administered.

Right now, UPMC is selecting which patients are eligible.

“We are giving Evusheld to our patients whose immune systems are not working properly,” said Dr. Stanley Marks, Chairman of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

UPMC has identified different tiers of patients based on how immunocompromised they are. Those most at risk will be offered Evusheld first.

Individuals who are selected are receiving an automated phone call, offering prompts. Those who select the prompt indicating that they wish to receive Evusheld will later receive a follow-up call to make an appointment. Appointments can be made at facilities all across Pennsylvania.

Barutha’s call came nearly one year after he received his new heart.

“I’m doubly lucky,” he said.

In the coming weeks, he’ll receive tests to confirm whether Evusheld worked for him.

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