Children as young as 12 could be given a powerful new antiviral treatment if they are exposed to people with Covid-19.
Abu Dhabi will within days introduce the use of Regen-Cov, one of the newest Covid-19 drugs on the market.
The treatment is the latest tool to fight the virus and the new strains that have developed. UAE health authorities are among the first to approve and receive the drug, which is administered via injection, along with the US.
It is aimed at people with underlying health issues but could be given to anyone who develops moderate to severe symptoms.
It should be available by next week, a leading health official said.
Dr Asma Ibrahim Al Mannaei, executive director of Research and Innovation Center in Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health, said the new cocktail drug would be in stock at Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) clinics potentially within days.
“We have the medication already in place and is it currently being distributed to healthcare facilities. I mean, we are talking about a matter of days,” she said.
Regen-Cov is the latest in new therapies used for treatment of the coronavirus.
It is the only medication that can be given as a preventive measure to people even before they contract the virus.
A study by Roche partner Regeneron said the cocktail cut the risk of getting Covid-19 by 82 per cent for up to eight months. It is part of a new generation of therapies that "jump-start" the immune system to ward off the virus.
Jointly run with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the study enrolled people who lived in a household with someone diagnosed with Covid-19 within the previous four days.
Early results from the trial showed the treatment cut the chances of infection by 81 per cent within the first month, Bloomberg reported this month. New data shows the protection is maintained, with an 82 per cent reduction in symptomatic infections for as long as eight months after the drug was administered.
During the study, none of the people in the treatment group were admitted to hospital with Covid-19, compared with six in the placebo group. No deaths from Covid-19 infection occurred in either group.
Regen-Cov will be allowed as a preventive therapy for people who are not yet fully vaccinated, who are immunocompromised or who have been exposed to the virus.
“It is the first drug that can be used as a treatment and also as a prophylaxis after exposure to a positive case,” Dr Al Mannaei said.
“It can also be used for people who have tested positive for the virus or who have come into contact with a positive case to prevent further development of the infection.”
Healthcare providers are currently being trained in how to administer the drug, she said.
Regen-Cov can be taken either through an intravenous or intramuscular injection and eligibility and dosage will be determined by the physician.
Dr Mannaei was optimistic about the new drug that promises results in preventing and curing symptoms of Covid-19.
“This is an excellent addition to the portfolio of treatments that we have in Abu Dhabi,” she said.
However, Dr Mannaei said that Regen-Cov and other treatments are in no way a replacement for vaccination.
“The best way for managing a communicable diseases, specifically Covid-19, is to prevent it from occurring from the start. This can only be done by vaccination, maintaining social distancing and adopting personal protection measures to avoid and break the infection cycle across the community,” she said.
“This is a treatment, not a replacement for vaccination. It is something that can be done as a secondary level of management of the disease. But the primary and most important [factor] is vaccination,” she said.
It will soon be offered in Abu Dhabi for nothing to all those eligible.
"It will be available for adults and children above the age of 12. There will be certain criterions, for example, co-morbidities, vulnerability and the severity of the case," she said.
"It will be very much dependent on the decision of the treating physician."