Biden administration took control over distribution of monoclonal antibodies. Will this impact FL?

By: - September 15, 2021 7:13 pm

A monoclonal antibody site in Leon County. Photo credit: Jill McElwee

In Florida’s state capital, the supply of monoclonal antibody therapy appears to be adequate to treat more COVID-19 patients, but shortages elsewhere could be cause for concern as demand rises for the treatments.

For weeks now, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been traversing the state to tout the effectiveness of the therapy, and at least 25 state-supported Regeneron sites have opened in Florida at no cost to patients. The governor’s press conferences usually have included life-saving stories from residents who were ill and got the antibody treatment.

Jill McElwee, incident manager of an antibody site in Leon County, told the Florida Phoenix that the clinic has plenty of doses available for patients and it has been highly effective for people battling COVID.

The Leon County Regeneron site is located at the Governor’s Square Mall in Tallahassee.

“It [a shortage] has not hit us yet,” said McElwee, who is also a registered nurse. “I have Regeneron. I just need people to know that we are here. We are really hearing some positive feedback.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently made an announcement about taking over distribution of the antibody therapy at least temporarily, according to The Washington Post.  The Post reported that seven states including Florida “have been using 70 percent of the national supply.”

Those other states include Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana, according the Post.

Of those states, five out of the six have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. Texas and Florida have higher rates, with Texas at 49.4 percent for fully vaccinated residents, and Florida at 55.4 percent, according to a Florida Phoenix analysis from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Tuesday, Regeneron issued a press release, saying HHS will purchase 1.4 million additional doses of its treatment, bringing the total to about 3 million doses purchased by the federal government.

The federal announcement about controlling distribution comes as the demand for monoclonal antibody therapy — used to boost the immune system’s response to an infection — has increased in many states with high numbers of cases and the spread of the Delta variant.

Overall, Florida has reported more than 3.46 million COVID-19 cases since January 2020, and posted 10,723 new cases on Wednesday, based on Tuesday data, according to the CDC.

The Biden administration outlined a plan to tackle the global pandemic by boosting vaccine distribution and “shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatment to states by a further 50 percent in September.”

However, due to some states dominating the supply of treatment, federal health officials want to ensure equal access to the treatment for all states and territories within the United States, according to The Post.

That move by President Biden triggered fears over the feds limiting supply of the therapy, according to a statement issued by DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw.

“It appears the Biden Administration is already breaking this crucial promise, by moving forward with new restrictions on the supply of monoclonal antibody treatment to Florida…We are working to ensure that the supply of monoclonal antibody treatment in Florida remains adequate to meet the needs of patients in our state,” she said.

In Florida, a private company called CourMed, has launched a “concierge” service that conveniently offers home delivery of the treatment, administered by nurses.

Derrick Miles, CourMed’s founder and CEO, said in an email to the Phoenix that he’s concerned about shortages but the company “can still provide our concierge service of monoclonal antibody infusion therapy in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties until supplies run out.”

“My initial concern about the shortage is that community pharmacies would get the short end of the stick again like what happened with the vaccines in Florida,” Miles said. “If that happened again, that would lead to a lower quality of care since most administration sites are performing monoclonal antibodies subcutaneously.”

Florida Phoenix editor Diane Rado contributed to this report.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.