Leer en Español
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is pushing a treatment to combat COVID-19 that could be very functional in battling the virus but has caused some controversy: monoclonal antibody treatment.
“Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the State of Florida is setting up a new monoclonal antibody therapy treatment site in Orlando at Camping World Stadium. This location has the capacity to serve more than 300 patients per day and will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily,” reads a statement from the governor’s office.
“Early monoclonal antibodies treatment keeps people out of the hospital and saves lives,” said Governor DeSantis. The treatment has emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “We look forward to continuing to open these sites throughout the state and hope awareness about the treatment continues to spread.”
What is the monoclonal antibodies treatment?
Many will recall that last year former President Donald Trump contracted COVID-19 and used this treatment to combat the disease. These antibodies are not exactly the same as the coronavirus vaccines, which prevent contagion and infection and also reduce the power of the virus. This treatment, in addition to preventing infection, can fight COVID once contracted, which a vaccine can not.
In an August 2020 article, the BBC explained that monoclonal antibodies treatment is “a type of drug that can be used both to prevent infection and to treat it once the disease has developed”.
“When our body detects the presence of an antigen, in this case, SARS-CoV-2, the immune system produces antibodies, proteins designed to neutralize that particular antigen, with the aim of preventing it from entering our cells, hijacking its mechanism and reproducing,” the article reads. “Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic copies created in the laboratory from a clone of a specific antibody found in the blood of a person who has recovered from COVID-19.”
After multiple studies, research, and testing, the FDA finally approved the use of the drug to combat COVID-19 in November 2020.
The FDA “issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for casirivimab and imdevimab to be administered together for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age or older weighing at least 40 kilograms [about 88 pounds]) with positive results of direct SARS-CoV-2 viral testing and who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19. This includes those who are 65 years of age or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions,” the November authorization reads.
Then, in May 2021, The FDA cleared another monoclonal antibody for the treatment of COVID-19 called sotrovimab.
“Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses. Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody that is specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and is designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells,” the FDA says.
Where can people register?
Floridians have the opportunity to register online through CDR’s website to receive free antibody treatment or to schedule an appointment.
The website provides a step-by-step registration process to opt for a COVID-19 test, sign up for vaccination or obtain a monoclonal antibodies treatment. As told to El American by Governor DeSantis’ press team, the site will soon be available in Spanish as well.
Mainstream media’s incoherent criticism
Several media outlets, including MSNBC and The Orlando Sentinel, made a false equivalency to criticize DeSantis for pushing monoclonal antibodies treatment. According to these media outlets, the governor is downplaying the importance of COVID-19 vaccines by promoting the new treatments.
MSNBC’s Steve Benen said, “while it’s true that monoclonal antibody treatments should be seen as a good and reliable thing for those who’ve contracted the virus, it’s also true that stopping people from becoming infected in the first place would also save a lot of lives while simultaneously helping ease the burden on Florida’s overburdened hospitals.”
According to Benen, DeSantis has not done enough to promote COVID-19 vaccines, even though the governor has consistently reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated.
The big difference between DeSantis and other governors is that the Republican is not forcing people to get vaccinated, put on masks, or even take the treatment. The Republican’s press team has been clear in explaining that the governor recommends vaccinations and, now, monoclonal antibodies treatments, but respecting the individual liberties of citizens.
Meanwhile, The Orlando Sentinel claimed that DeSantis downplayed the “importance of the effectiveness of vaccines” while promoting the new monoclonal antibodies treatment.
What the governor said was, “Even though we’ve done all the nursing homes, for example, we still see people that are testing positive in the nursing homes,” DeSantis said. “So yeah, they’re vaccinated. That’s great. That was the right thing to do. I do think it reduced for at least a few months the number of infections in nursing homes. But it’s not just Florida, you’re seeing now more people are testing positive. So then what do you do?”
What DeSantis is putting forward is a new way to combat the virus, not dulling the vaccines, explained from the governor’s press team.
“There is a false media narrative that promoting the treatment means DeSantis is anti-vaccine. That’s false.” the governor’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told El American.
“DeSantis has always promoted the vaccine since it became available, and he still encourages Floridians to get it, but vaccines are for prevention of illness. Monoclonal antibodies are for treating the disease if you get COVID. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive— vaccinated and unvaccinated people can get the free treatment if they are in a high-risk group,” Pushaw added.
The press secretary also debunked on Twitter The New York Times columnist Tim O’Brien, who said that “the regeneron treatment DeSantis is pushing costs at least $1,250 per dose. COVID-19 vaccines cost $0.”
“Denounce this misinformation. Regeneron treatment costs $0 for Florida patients; same as the vaccines,” Pushaw said.
Even members of the Biden administration supported DeSantis’ promotion of monoclonal antibodies treatment. Dr. Cameron Webb, a senior advisor on equity issues for the White House and part of the COVID-19 response team, said that the governor is following the science “because [the science] tells us if you’re getting monoclonal antibody to folks with mild to moderate covid (…) you can prevent hospitalizations”
Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.
Contacto: [email protected]