Despite rationing, monoclonal antibody treatments remain plentiful in Georgia
Despite the federal government’s recent rationing of the monoclonal treatment supplies each state is receiving, Georgia seems to be in no imminent danger of the treatments running out.
“About a month ago, the federal government completely changed the distribution process for these treatments,” Gov. Brian Kemp said Thursday. “Now, the states get weekly allocations and have to determine where those treatment doses are sent, based on utilization and reporting. … In short, we’re being capped on our allocations.”
Kemp said several weeks ago the state had received more than 10,000 doses of the treatment.
“Last week, we were allocated 8,200 doses, and our current allocation is 7,890, and we’ll continue to distribute those treatments to anyone who tests positive,” he said. “However, those treatments are still secondary to vaccinations.”
Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic, laboratory- created antibodies. They help people at high risk for severe COVID illness, individuals who have tested positive within 10 days for the virus, or people who are in close contact with those who have tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the decision to change the distribution process is because of supply shortages and rising demand for the treatments across the U.S., especially with the spread of COVID-19’s delta variant.
HHS is now determining each state’s weekly allocation of monoclonal antibody products based on use and the number of new COVID cases. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) will identify which sites in the state will receive the product and the amount each site receives.
Health-care providers are now required to record their administration of the products in order to receive future shipments.
DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said supply and demand for the treatments are trending downward, as are the number of overall coronavirus cases.
“We have plenty now, and there are no reports of shortages that I’m aware of,” Toomey said Thursday.
There are currently 136 locations in Georgia where monoclonal antibody treatments are being administered.
Phoebe Putney Health System is one of those providers, located in southwest Georgia. Jane Gray, senior vice president, confirmed shipments have been reduced as demand has gone down.
“We have substantial inventory at the moment, and we’re putting signage out at our testing sites regarding the treatments,” Gray said. “We are big believers in its effectiveness, but vaccines remain the best option.
“Until the treatments became available, we had no real options for outpatient treatment. Since these antibody treatments have become available, we’ve had many reports of people who were feeling better in as little as one day after receiving them.”
Gray said the treatments can be used on anyone who has tested COVID positive within 10 days, regardless of the patient’s vaccination status.
“Outside of that 10-day window, you’re no longer eligible for the monoclonal treatments,” she said.
As treatment supplies remain plentiful in Georgia, the state doesn’t seem inclined to follow Florida and Texas in their efforts to obtain their own monoclonal antibody supplies or block federal intrusion into how they’re distributed.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said his state has bypassed the Biden administration's limits on monoclonal antibodies by obtaining its own supply. On Friday, his office also announced it has opened another antibody infusion center, the latest among 23 the state has opened in recent months.
Abbott’s office said it is working with the Texas Department of Emergency Management and its Department of State Health Services to expand antibody infusion centers These state-sponsored infusion centers are in addition to the infusion treatment centers provided by more than 200 private health-care providers across the state. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and six Senate Republican colleagues are sponsoring the Treatment Restoration for Emergency Antibody Therapeutics Act. The bill would prohibit HHS from implementing policies restricting hospitals and other health- care facilities from ordering and receiving the treatments directly from manufacturers and distributors. Rubio has been outspoken over HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra’s decision to ration the treatments.
“This decision was made without providing the Florida Department of Health or health-care providers any time to prepare for this dramatic shift … leaving Florida providers scrambling for information and a path forward for previously scheduled appointments of this life-saving therapy,” Rubio said. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that seven states make up roughly 70% of the requests for monoclonal antibody treatments.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.