TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s surgeon general is calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to get out of the way and allow states to acquire more monoclonal antibody treatments.
The move comes as daily COVID-19 cases reach record highs across the country.
In a letter to the HHS secretary, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo ripped the agency’s recent decision to pause allocations of two monoclonal antibody treatments.
“This shortsightedness is especially evident given that the federal government effectively prohibited states from purchasing these monoclonal antibodies and serving their populations directly,” wrote Ladapo.
The decision was made after some evidence suggested the treatments are ineffective against the omicron variant.
“What our surgeon general is doing is asking for potential treatments that don’t work,” said Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani.
Eskamani noted there is one treatment that seems to hold up against omicron.
“There is a third treatment that we do need to see an expansion of, and I know the federal government is working on that,” said Eskamani.
But Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows more than 20% of cases in the South are still from the delta variant.
Ladapo argued in his letter the other two treatments shouldn’t be completely off the table.
“Florida can expand treatment options for patients by distributing therapeutics to providers working in areas with a low prevalence of omicron or clinics capable of variant screening,” Ladapo wrote.
An HHS spokesperson told us in a statement that the federal government never stopped shipping antibody treatments to Florida. The state received 22,000 treatments last week alone.
“That’s in addition to the approximately 28,000 doses of product that they have on hand from their previous orders. In other words, Florida should have strong supply of product on hand — and more than most other states,” said HHS spokesperson Kristen Allen.
But considering the state just racked up nearly 47,000 new cases in a single day, there’s an apparent imbalance between supply and demand.
“[Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis] has consistently urged the Biden Administration to ramp up supplies of these lifesaving therapeutics, and several months ago, he warned of a possible ‘winter surge’ of COVID throughout the country. It is disappointing that the federal government has not heeded this advice and has neglected to promote treatment options at every turn,” said DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw in an emailed statement.
Eskamani acknowledged more could be done by the federal government but argued the surgeon general’s letter won’t solve anything.
“It doesn’t help to point fingers at this moment. We need to work together to get out of this and keep our people safe,” said Eskamani.
Instead, Eskamani urged the state to put its focus on promoting vaccines, boosters and increasing testing.
“But none of that is happening. Instead, the governor is blaming [President Joe] Biden on antibody treatments and we don’t even know if they’re effective on omicron,” said Eskamani.
If you are seeking monoclonal antibody treatment, you can find a provider near you at floridahealth.gov.