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Florida Pushes Antibody Treatments After Record COVID-19 Hospitalizations

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Florida health officials agreed Wednesday that they will begin urging the public to take advantage of monoclonal antibody therapy upon the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, the Daily Caller News Foundation has learned. 
  • “Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses,” according to the Food and Drug Administration. 
  • “I do think it has really made a difference,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said of the therapy. “And I think if people know that that is out there, I think it will be something that will be good.” 

Florida health officials agreed Wednesday that they will begin urging the public to take advantage of monoclonal antibody therapy upon the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, the Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.

In a virtual roundtable Wednesday, officials briefed Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on spikes in COVID-19 cases across the state, urging citizens to obtain vaccinations but also emphasizing that Floridians with non-COVID related health emergencies should not be afraid to go to the emergency room.

The Florida health officials noted that vaccinated people are much less likely to get COVID-19. If vaccinated patients do get COVID-19, the health officials said, they will likely be in and out of the hospital much more quickly than unvaccinated patients. (RELATED: Antibody Therapy Shown To Reduce Risk Of Death In COVID-19 Patients, Seeks FDA Approval)

DeSantis also questioned health officials minutely about the use of monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab. The monoclonal treatment is intended for mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 patients, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Officials agreed that they should be highlighting this treatment and urging Floridians to seek it out as soon as they realize they have COVID-19 symptoms.

“Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses,” the FDA said in a statement. “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 recommends using the monoclonals “to treat nonhospitalized patients with mild to moderate COVID-19” as soon as possible after the patient has received a positive COVID test.

Tampa General Hospital CEO John Couris said that the hospital and the University of South Florida have been collaborating since almost the beginning of the pandemic with Regeneron and other organizations to study the monoclonal antibodies.

“I will tell you, from our perspectives, both anecdotally and from a scientific perspective, they work,” he said.

While there was formerly a tight criteria for who could use these therapies, he said, now any patient who tests positive for COVID-19 can benefit from the therapy.

“Actually we’ve been encouraging the medical community in our region to aggressively look at this as an approach to treating COVID,” he said. “Because it’s very effective…Anecdotally, almost 100% of our patients have told us that 24 to 48 hours later, they feel much better. And symptoms start to subside.”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who was also present at the virtual roundtable, said that he believes messaging on monoclonal antibody therapy would be helpful and promised to help “get that message out.” (RELATED: ‘Woke’ Pressure ‘Strengthened’ DeSantis Decision To Ban Biological Males From Women’s Sports, Spox Says)

“I do think it has really made a difference,” DeSantis said of the therapy. “And I think if people know that that is out there, I think it will be something that will be good.”

Federal data released Saturday shows that the state hit its highest one-day total since the beginning of the pandemic at 21,683 cases, the Associated Press reported. Health officials said Wednesday that many patients are going to the hospital for other health conditions and then finding out that they have COVID-19.

“About 12% of our admissions are from vaccinated people,” Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya said Wednesday. “Half of that group are people that are coming in for other reasons than COVID.”

“We have right now, 280 patients that are COVID positive. A quarter of those are here for other purposes, and are asymptomatic,” he said. “And of course, when we test them, we find out that they have COVID, but they’re not here for COVID, even though they are actually rated as a COVID patient, because they’re not here for the COVID purposes. And those are vaccinated people.”

From that perspective, Migoya said, he believes the number of people that are vaccinated that are in the hospital because of COVID-19 is “a lot lower than the numbers we are seeing.”

DeSantis said during a press conference Tuesday that though hospital admissions have slowed, he does not believe “we’ve reached the peak yet.” (RELATED: Ron DeSantis Will Pardon Those Charged With COVID Crimes)

“I think we’re going to settle in hopefully this week or next week, but in terms of shutting down, we’re not shutting down,” he said. “We’re going to have schools open. We’re protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We’re protecting people, small businesses.

“These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States, but abroad, they have not stopped the spread,” he said.

“Particularly with Delta, which is even more transmissible, if it didn’t stop it before, it definitely ain’t going to stop it now,” DeSantis added. “And so I think it’s very important that we understand that the best offenses we have are the combination of the natural immunity that’s been built up and our seniors’ first vaccination efforts.”

DeSantis said that he thinks Florida’s strategy of focusing on vaccinating seniors and the vulnerable “has been the right way to go,” a sentiment echoed by Florida health officials in Wednesday’s virtual roundtable.

The governor said the media will most likely “fear monger” about Florida’s COVID-19 cases and talk about hospitalizations, but he highlighted that “our hospitals are open for business” and that coronavirus patients in hospitals like Jackson Memorial Hospital (the largest public hospital in Miami-Dade) “the COVID patients are half of what they were last year.

“Even in places that have more COVID patients represent a fraction of the overall hospital beds,” he said. “And so I don’t want to see a repeat because of some of the media hysteria where people who have heart problems or stroke are not going in to get care that happened in March of 2020 and in April.”

“Literally people were having heart attacks at home because they thought that there weren’t either not enough room in the hospital, or they thought that they would get COVID and die as a result of that,” the governor said. “So we don’t want to follow that people should be good. You should go.”

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