Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel received monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID

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Posted at 5:02 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 21:59:58-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — When the Tennessee Titans return under the lights at Nissan Stadium Saturday night, they'll be without their head coach. Mike Vrabel tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and remains under quarantine protocols. Instead of pacing the sidelines, he seems to be climbing the walls while under quarantine.

"I feel fine, I feel great, I’m ready to get back to work," he told reporters during a Zoom call Tuesday.

Even though he's vaccinated, the Titans team doctor prescribed monoclonal antibodies.

"If you can catch it early enough in the process, antibodies can provide a really high level of benefit," said Dr. Robert Carnahan, an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University specializing in cell biology.

It's kind of like bringing a pro-bowl defensive line out to protect your body. Dr. Carnahan says the antibodies are cloned white blood cells, reproduced in a lab, that already know how to fight COVID-19.

"We can take, basically, that learning and pass it along who needs it," said Dr. Carnahan.

Currently, it's mainly being used for patients who may have the highest risk of dying from the virus. "If someone is immuno-compromised, they’re on a drug that immuno-suppresses them, maybe they fit into a particular risk category," he said.

For now, you have to have a doctor's prescription but that could be changing. In a few weeks, several drug companies plan to file for emergency use authorization through the FDA for monoclonal antibodies that can be injected, instead of an intravenous infusion.

"They’re going to be asking for that in the next weeks, so I would say by this early fall, we should see a much broader availability of antibody therapeutics for COVID-19," said Dr. Carnahan.

As for Coach Vrabel, while he could have a health condition we're not privy to, it's more likely he got the treatment so he can return to the field a lot sooner. "The antibodies will definitely really rapidly clear the virus," said Carnahan.

Carnahan adds -- while monoclonal antibodies are clinically proven to be highly effective -- they should not be considered a substitute to getting a COVID-19 vaccine. As he put it, these antibodies are just another "tool in the toolbox."