Vaccination, Antibodies Key to Keeping COVID-19 Patients Out of Hospital

By: Sarah Katz

Advances in the clinical care of COVID-19 patients – made possible by rapid, adaptive trials led by UPMC physician-scientists – have dropped patient death rates by 5% each month of the pandemic, UPMC announced this morning at a press briefing. In addition, as many as 19 times more non-vaccinated adult patients ages 50 and younger are currently admitted to UPMC hospitals compared to vaccinated patients.

“The average age of our hospitalized patients is almost a decade younger than when we were at the peak of last winter’s wave of COVID-19 in December 2020,” said Dr. Rachel Sackrowitz, chief medical officer of UPMC’s ICU Service Center. “This is concerning because these are people who have few other health issues and would otherwise be looking forward to many healthy years ahead. But the overwhelming majority have one thing in common: They are not vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Sackrowitz added that this statistic is particularly distressing because the disease was preventable in these patients.

“According to our estimates, about 70% of the patients currently in our hospitals could have avoided hospitalization if they’d received monoclonal antibodies while their illness was still mild,” said Dr. Derek Angus, UPMC’s chief innovation officer. “This one-time treatment – if given within about a week of COVID-19 infection – significantly decreases the risk of hospitalization and death.”

Earlier this year, UPMC launched its OPTIMISE-C19 trial to study the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies. Since the start of the pandemic, UPMC has treated over 5,700 patients with monoclonal antibodies, of which over 4,000 are enrolled in the study. These patients are creating the real-time data to help   understand how effective monoclonal antibodies are against COVID-19.

The Delta variant of the virus, predominant in the communities that UPMC serves, poses a risk to children who are too young to benefit from vaccination.

“At UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, we are still seeing a slight increase in cases and hospitalizations of kids and teens with COVID-19,” said Dr. John Williams, chief of pediatric infectious diseases. “A disproportionate number of kids getting sick and needing hospitalization have other illnesses, but many are completely healthy kids.”

The best way to protect children from the Delta variant is by masking in schools, distancing and testing when symptoms arise. All children 12 years or older are eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

“My urgent plea is for everyone eligible for a vaccine to make the choice to get one,” Dr. Sackrowitz said. “You aren’t just getting the vaccine for yourself; you are doing it for those around you – your parents, your children, your neighbors, your coworkers and the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and all the other health care heroes who continue to work countless hours to save lives.”

To schedule an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, visit

If you tested positive for COVID-19, you may be eligible to receive monoclonal antibodies. Call 866-804-5251 or visit for more information.

Press Conference Coronavirus 090821