Florida Launches Antibody Treatment Effort To Help Hospitals During Coronavirus Spike
Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Downtown Jacksonville Thursday touting Regeneron, an antibody treatment for those infected with the coronavirus.
The governor said emergency treatment “strike teams” will deploy across the state to increase access to the treatment, including in a clinic that will be set up in the Downtown Jacksonville Library conference room.
“I do think this is probably the best thing we can do to reduce the number of people that require hospitalization,” DeSantis said. “So I want everybody to know that this is an important way to be able to protect yourself in the event that you are infected.”
A temporary Regeneron clinic opened at 12 p.m. Thursday in a field at 300 Bay Street near the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront in a Florida Department of Emergency Management Mobile Incident Management Unit. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and can treat eight people every hour-and-a-half.
"These monoclonal antibody therapy sites will expand access to proven effective COVID-19 treatment,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kenneth Scheppke. “The treatment reduces severe illness, hospitalization and death risk by 70%, and reduces the odds of household contacts developing COVID-19 by 82%.”
Unlike a vaccine, once Regeneron wears off, you’re no longer protected if you have another exposure to someone who is sick.
“What we’re trying to do, ultimately, is relieve the [emergency department] space,” said FDEM Director Kevin Guthrie. “We do believe this will be a situation where the state, the Surgeon General, will be able to help all of the hospitals around the state of Florida bring the number of emergency department admissions down and open up that space.”
Dr. Sunil Joshi, head of the Duval Medical Society Foundation, said the vaccine is a good long-term solution, but it’s not going to help you if you’re unvaccinated and you’re exposed to the virus now.
“You get vaccinated, you wait two weeks to get your second dose, then you have to wait two more weeks for it to be fully effective. So you're looking at six weeks before the vaccine really protects you,” Joshi said. “What about these people right now who are getting very sick now, when our hospitals are at capacity? If there are people who are at high risk of hospitalization because of other risk factors, if we give them Regeneron, can we prevent that person from becoming hospitalized?”
Former President Donald Trump was treated with Regeneron when he was sick with COVID-19 last year, before the drug was widely available.
The Food and Drug Administration has granted the drug Emergency Use Authorization “for people who are not fully vaccinated or who are not expected to mount an adequate immune response to complete SARS-CoV-2 vaccination (for example, individuals with immunocompromising conditions including those taking immunosuppressive medications.)”
The state has contracted with private firm CDR Maguire to distribute the antibody treatment.
For now, the FDEM is prioritizing people who have referrals for Regeneron, either from an emergency room physician or their own family doctor. It is expected that within about a week, the temporary clinic will relocate to the Downtown branch of the Jacksonville Public Library. At that point Guthrie is hopeful referrals will no longer be necessary and walk-ups will be able to get immediate care.
A Regeneron treatment involves four simultaneous injections in the lower belly, after a 20-minute waiting period for the drug to warm up to room temperature. The injection lasts about 15 minutes. Then, the patient must be watched for an hour in case they exhibit any side effects.
The governor said the treatment is not a replacement for vaccinations.
“Maybe people thought that if you tell them there’s a treatment, they wouldn’t necessarily get vaccinated. I don’t think it’s an either/or,” DeSantis said.
Contact Sydney Boles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.
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