State officials across the country are sounding the alarm over shortages of monoclonal antibody drugs used for the treatment of COVID-19, with some warning unvaccinated folks not to count on having such treatments available in the instance that they contract the virus in the near future.
With demand far outpacing supply for the drugs, namely Regeneron's REVG-COV and Eli Lilley's Bamlanivimab, the Biden administration announced this week that the Department of Health and Human Services would be "transitioned from a direct ordering process to a state/territory-coordinated distribution system" for the treatments. The agency promising the switch would give "health departments maximum flexibility to get these critical drugs where they are needed most."
The HHS decision caused a number of states to alert their citizens of the change, and some officials used the opportunity to urge unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated because supplies of the antibody treatments might dry up.
"It is much easier to get a vaccine than risk becoming seriously ill with life threatening complications," Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner Kathleen Toomey said in a statement accompanying the state's announcement regarding the new HHS distribution system. "Monoclonal antibodies are in short supply and high demand and hospital beds are full. What Georgia does have is enough vaccine for all Georgians aged 12 and over to be vaccinated."
North Dakota cautioned its residents this week that the demand for antibody drugs "is anticipated to exceed the allocation" in the state.
"Those who have been hesitant about receiving COVID-19 vaccine may be counting on monoclonal antibodies for treatment if they become sick," North Dakota State Health Officer Nizar Wehbi said in a statement. "Due to increased national demand and very limited supply, Monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as available."
"Vaccination is still the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19," Wehbi continued, adding, "North Dakotans who have not yet been vaccinated are encouraged to do so."
During a press briefing this week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters regarding the HHS change that "just seven states are making up 70 percent of the orders" for antibody treatments.
"Our supply is not unlimited, and we believe it should be equitable across states, across the country," she said.
According to Politico, the seven states that Psaki was referring to are all in the South, and one of them is Florida.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lambasted the Biden administration over the new distribution rules, saying Thursday, "We've been handed a major curveball here, with a really huge cut from HHS and the Biden administration."
"We're going to make sure we leave no stone unturned," he said during a presser. "Whoever needs a treatment, we're going to work like hell to get them the treatment."