The Biden-Harris administration is threatening to limit states’ access to the monoclonal antibody treatment that has proven strongly effective against COVID-19, in the face of growing demand from Republican governors who have relied on the drug as a primary weapon in the fight against the virus.
Federal health officials plan to allocate specific quantities to each state under the new approach in an effort to evenly distribute the 150,000 doses the government makes available weekly.
One of the biggest promoters of the treatment, Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis expressed his concern about Biden’s “abrupt” new decision and said he will “fight like hell” to counteract the move so he can continue to offer a “life-saving” alternative.
“I will fight like hell to overcome Biden’s cruel decision to drastically reduce lifesaving monoclonal antibody treatments for Floridians. We’ve seen steep reductions in hospital admissions due to early treatment efforts. It’s wrong to penalize Florida for his partisan bitterness.”
President Joe Biden has sharply criticized DeSantis and others for resisting his mandates on use of masks and vaccines. Last week he said in a speech that if “the governors won’t help us beat the pandemic,” he will use his “power as president” to “get them out of the way.”
In a previous one-on-one, DeSantis had already responded to Biden with a similar statement: “I will get in your way.”
Still, until recently, the government sent antibody treatments to states as needed, while top health officials in late July went so far as to recommend it for those battling the Delta variant.
Following the drastic change of course on the treatment, DeSantis said he had a phone conversation with GlaxoSmithKline executives and believes Florida will be able to order its new formulation of the monoclonal antibody directly from the company, meaning that it doesn’t have to deal with Biden’s restriction.
Monoclonal antibody treatment in Republican states
According to officials, seven states (Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama) accounted for 70% of all treatment orders in early September.
Earlier this month, Biden officials at Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told states that they would take a “closer” look at how much of the treatment was actually being used, but said they would “limit” the supply.
Since the Delta variant emerged, Republican governors have leaned toward using effective treatments such as monoclonal antibody therapy as a way around the restrictions.
In Texas, for example, Governor Greg Abbott opened a number of antibody infusion centers. For his part, DeSantis has similarly touted efforts to make the treatment widely available throughout Florida.
Revenge or fairer distribution?
Recently, Republican Senator Marco Rubio also weighed in on Twitter regarding Biden’s new move, saying the decision “reeks of partisan payback.”
In a video posted in another tweet, Rubio claimed that the decision to “ration” treatment is a “punishment” against Florida and that the Biden administration “is approaching tyranny.”
“Every day is something new with this White House,” Rubio said in his tweet. “What they want is power and control,” he finished.