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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Biden administration has slashed in half the state’s supply of monoclonal antibody treatments that have been critical in reducing deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19.
“This is a dramatic reduction,” DeSantis said Thursday at a Fort Lauderdale press conference with healthcare providers. “We are facing a massive cut in antibody treatments. Abruptly.”
The Biden administration announced earlier this week that the federal government is facing a shortage of the drug due to “a substantial surge in the utilization” associated with the highly transmissible delta variant.
The Health and Human Services Department will now control and ration how much of the treatment supply goes to each state and has reduced shipments to many states in order to ensure equitable distribution, officials said.
Florida's supply has been reduced by more than 50%, DeSantis said.
The Biden administration said the restrictions are in place to ensure that every state can obtain enough of the drug.
According to Health and Human Services Department officials, a small group of southern states have utilized 70% of the supply of monoclonal antibody treatments.
Florida ranks No. 1. It received 30,000 doses in the past week. Texas ranked second after receiving 24,000 doses in the past week, HHS figures show.
Biden has clashed with southern-state governors who have refused to back vaccine and mask mandates.
DeSantis has been at the forefront in resisting mandates. He’s fined Florida school systems for imposing mask mandates and plans to fine local governments that require employees to get vaccinated.
Critics blame DeSantis for the state's surge in hospitalizations and deaths this summer, which they say could have been reduced if he had pushed for vaccinations and masks rather than fines against mandates. The vaccine is considered effective at preventing serious illness and death despite breakthrough cases.
On Wednesday, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw suggested the Biden administration was retaliating against Florida.
“It is regrettable that the Biden administration would play politics with people’s lives during a pandemic by withholding a life-saving treatment and providing mixed messages to Americans,” Pushaw told the Washington Examiner.
Red-state governors immediately criticized Biden for rationing the antibody treatments. They said the decision was announced abruptly and came only a week after the administration pledged to increase the shipments to states by 50%.
“Today, I pressed President Biden's team to explain the sudden rationing of these life-saving treatments, without any warning, after the administration urged us to promote them,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement earlier this week.
In Florida, nearly 100,000 people have been treated with monoclonal antibody therapy after contracting COVID-19, DeSantis said Thursday.
DeSantis said the majority who sought treatment became infected with the virus despite being vaccinated against COVID-19, which he said underscores the need not only to promote vaccinations, which are widely available and free in Florida, but to develop early treatments for those who get the disease.
The governor credited his administration with increasing awareness about monoclonal antibody treatments, which had been underutilized nationally despite effectiveness in curing COVID-19 when administered early.
DeSantis has opened 25 treatment sites around the state, increasing access to the drug.
“Many thousands would have ended up in the hospital, and of course, some of them would have ended up dying, so it has saved lives here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
The federal government’s control over the supply of available antibody treatments prevents local officials from purchasing the drug independently.
A new monoclonal antibody treatment is now under development by drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline, and DeSantis said he hopes to begin purchasing directly from the company, bypassing the Biden restrictions.
Hospitalizations and cases are declining in Florida, but DeSantis predicts they’ll rise again in the fall as they did last year.
“We’ve been thrown a major curveball here with a really huge cut,” DeSantis said. “We're going to make sure we leave no stone unturned. Whoever needs a treatment, we're going to work like hell to get them the treatment.”
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Original Author: Susan Ferrechio