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Biden administration could reduce monoclonal antibodies in Mid-South due to shortage

Monoclonal antibodies
Monoclonal antibodies(WCJB)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 5:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - They’ve been a lifesaving treatment for many people infected with COVID-19, especially the unvaccinated. But a policy change by the federal government could reduce access to monoclonal antibody treatments in the Mid-South.

As Delta variant cases exploded, so did the number of people seeking monoclonal antibodies to treat their infections.

That has created a problem.

Right now, 70 percent of the nation’s monoclonal antibody doses are going to seven states in the south, which have experienced a surge in cases, including Tennessee and Mississippi.

“Because of the uptick in cases there appears to be a shortage,” said Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. “It’s unfortunate, but there’s not really an open market to get these monoclonal antibodies, which creates a real challenge for us.”

Reeves is not thrilled with how the Biden administration plans to deal with the shortage.

While the administration hasn’t spoken publicly about the plan, the Washington Post detailed how the new policy will work.

Instead of states and hospitals ordering directly from the manufacturer, the federal government will review their requests and determine how many doses each state gets, all but certain to lead to cuts.

About 150,000 doses are allocated each week nationwide.

“It is not right for the administration to be taking away Mississippi’s allocation. They know that. We’ve alerted them to that and we hope they will not do it,” Reeves said.

Bill Christian, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Health, told Action News 5 state officials recently learned about the supply shortage.

“HHS recently informed states of disruptions to the federal supply chain for monoclonal antibody products,” said Christian. “Tennessee providers continue to offer this treatment statewide, although availability could be temporarily reduced. The Tennessee Department of Health is working closely with providers to prioritize distribution to patients at highest risk for hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”

Christian told the Washington Post because of the policy change “patients are being turned away, and appointments are canceled due to a lack of clarity on when treatment will be available.”

In Arkansas, Baptist Memorial Hospital -Crittenden said it would have to reduce its appointments due to limited supply coming into that state.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Steve Threlkeld, with Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, says while the monoclonal antibodies have helped people, vaccination remains the best defense.

“We don’t want to limit monoclonal antibody use to anyone,” said Threlkeld. “At the same time, I think it’s important that we act responsibly as states, as individuals in these states, to get our vaccinations and not use those monoclonal antibodies as some sort of fallback therapy because we didn’t bother to do the things to prevent the infection in the first place.”

As for Mississippi, Reeves says the state should have enough monoclonal antibodies to meet the demand for the next week or so.

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