When the CDC was preparing to recommend the new bivalent COVID booster vaccines (speaking of which, most of us should make plans to get one), they also mentioned that more people should be aware of Evusheld, which can provide extra protection for immunocompromised people aged 12 and up.
People who are immunocompromised are have immune systems that don’t always work as well as they’re supposed to. You can have a weakened immune system due to a medical condition, or you may be taking medication that suppresses your immune system due to conditions like cancer or receiving an organ transplant.
For some immunocompromised people, it’s not safe to get a COVID vaccine at all. For many more, the vaccines are safe but don’t provide as much protection as they do for someone with a strong immune system. (That’s why people who are immunocompromised are supposed to get three doses instead of two when they first get a Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine.)
If you couldn’t get a COVID vaccine, or if you got it but are in the group of people who likely aren’t as well protected, you can get Evusheld for an extra layer of protection.
What is Evusheld?
Evusheld is considered “pre-exposure prophylaxis” for COVID, and is available for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. The CDC has guidelines about Evusheld here. Evusheld is given every 6 months.
The treatment consists of two injections of monoclonal antibodies, tixagevimab and cilgavimab. In other words, instead of triggering your body to produce its own antibodies, you’re being given some ready-made antibodies. You should still also get your COVID vaccine, if you’re able to.
Who can get Evusheld?
Evusheld is for people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised or who are unable to be fully vaccinated with one of the regular COVID vaccines (for example, if you had an allergic reaction to your first dose or if you know you are allergic to a component of the vaccine). You also need to be at least 12 years old and weigh at least 88 pounds.
The treatment cannot be given if you just got your COVID vaccine (you need to wait two weeks after receiving your last dose) and you also can’t be currently sick with COVID or quarantining due to a recent exposure.
According to the FDA, examples of conditions that are considered to be cause patients to be moderately or severely immunocompromised include:
- Undergoing treatment for cancer.
- Taking immunosuppressive drugs due to an organ transplant.
- CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
- Moderate to severe medical conditions that cause immunodeficiency.
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection,
- Undergoing treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other medications or biologics that weaken or change the immune system, including chemotherapy drugs, TNF blockers, and B-cell depleting agents.
How do I get Evusheld?
Evusheld is only available by prescription. The government has purchased doses of Evusheld to give to eligible people, so you should be able to get it for free or at very low cost, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
You can use this locator map to find a clinic where you can get Evusheld. Don’t expect to walk in; call ahead to make sure they have the treatment in stock and to give them time to process the prescription.