Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the press on Sept. 16, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale. Source: Screenshot/DeSantis Facebook page
While Gov. Ron DeSantis is steamed about possible dwindling supplies of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19, Florida continues to have a bigger share than any other state or territory.
The feds have allocated 27,850 doses for Florida this week, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data released on Monday, when the Biden administration announced its new distribution policy. Only Texas comes close to that amount, at 21,270.
That’s nearly 18 percent of the nation’s Regeneron supply through early next week for Florida, according the HHS figures. Texas is getting about 13 percent of the supply.
You might not appreciate Florida’s good fortune if you listened only to the governor, however. During a news conference in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, DeSantis accused the administration of of sharply cutting supplies to his state.
“We are very, very concerned with the Biden administration and the HHS’s recent, abrupt, sudden announcement that they are going to dramatically cut the number of monoclonal antibodies [doses] that are going to be sent to the state of Florida,” he told reporters.
Perhaps, but consider the context: Amid spiking infections with the COVID Delta variant, demand for treatments, including monoclonal antibodies, is also on the rise. That’s why Biden reversed course on his earlier promise to boost shipments by 50 percent in September and instead imposed rationing, to make sure every state gets a share.
Up to now, seven states, including Florida, have been sucking up 70 percent of the national supply, The Washington Post has reported.
Even under the new system, the feds have promised other big states are due far fewer doses than we’re getting: 4,610 for California; 4,410 for New York; 3,250 for Ohio; 2,490 for Illinois.
After Florida and Texas, the next biggest allotment goes to Georgia: 8,920 doses. Among other southern states, Mississippi gets 8,550; Louisiana 7,650; Alabama 7,220; and Tennessee 6,940.
Vaccination rates in the South rank among the lowest in the country, although Florida’s rate of completed vaccinations, as of Thursday, is 55.6 percent and Texas’ is 49.5 percent. Massachusetts’ rate is 67 percent, New York’s 62.1 percent; California’s at 57.5 percent and Pennsylvania’s at 56.7, according to an analysis of CDC data by the Florida Phoenix.
DeSantis defended his emphasis on monoclonal treatments, noting the Delta surge and the fact that the available vaccines require weeks to become effective and leave people open to breakthrough infections in any case.
He complained that the administration has given the states the onus of distributing supplies to state distribution sites plus hospitals and other infusion centers.
“To just spring this on us, starting next week we’re going to have to do that? There’s going to be a huge disruption and patients are going to suffer as a result of this,” he said.
He said Florida has distributed some 90,000 doses since he began promoting Regeneron in mid-August.
“Part of the reason we’ve used a lot is because I have made it a priority in the state of Florida. It had not been a priority at the federal government level for months and months and months. We saw the need. We saw patients that were coming in. We saw a gap in understanding among the population,” DeSantis said.
“And so, we acted. We were able to raise awareness and we were able to expand access for people, which is very important. That should be celebrated. I mean, if we had sat on our hands, just think of all the 90-plus-thousand people that would not have gotten this treatment. Many thousands of them would have ended up in the hospital and, of course, some of them would have ended up dying.”
The governor said he has spoken to GlaxoSmithKline about that company’s monoclonal antibody treatment, sotrovimab, which the feds OK’d for emergency use in May and which has proven 85 percent effective in preventing hospitalization or death in high-risk COVID patients. It must be administered through infusion, not subcutaneously, which is possible with Regeneron.
“We do think we could potentially order some sotrovimab, and we will do that if we can,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also signaled openness to offering incentives to employees to get the COVID shots, as long as they aren’t made mandatory. Broward County plans to pay $500 bonuses for workers who show proof of vaccination but charge unvaccinated workers $25 per pay period and require them to take coronavirus tests, according to local reports.
“I think offering incentives, providing information, encouraging I think is well within their rights and I think that would be totally appropriate. What’s not appropriate under Florida law is to fire somebody based on this issue. We gotta protect people’s jobs; we gotta protect people’s livelihoods,” he said.
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