Politics

DeSantis Hits Biden For Cutting Supply Of Antibody Treatment To Southern States For ‘Equity’ Purposes

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Healthcare Reporter
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Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that President Joe Biden is creating a “huge disruption” in his state’s fight against COVID-19 by changing how the federal government distributes monoclonal antibody treatments (mAbs).

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Monday it was transitioning from a direct-ordering system for mAbs to a “state/territory-coordinated distribution system.” The shift occurred after HHS determined that 70% of mAbs were being ordered by just seven states, which are primarily concentrated in the southern U.S. as it is hit hard by the delta variant.

Florida had been the leading recipient of mAbs prior to the shift, followed by Texas, Georgia and Mississippi, according to HHS data. Now, rather than have treatment sites order directly from suppliers, weekly distribution amounts will be determined by HHS based on weekly COVID-19 hospitalization and case numbers as well as inventory and usage rates, and state governments will be responsible for all distribution of mAbs they are supplied with.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday the administration is increasing its total distribution by 50% this month, but that states with lower vaccination rates “like Florida, like Texas” are hogging the supply: “Our supply is not unlimited, and we believe it should be equitable across states across the country.”

Florida’s vaccination rate is higher than the national average, at 55.6% versus a national rate of 54.2%. (RELATED: ‘Long COVID-19’ Is Incredibly Rare In Kids, New Data Shows)

Regeneron announced Tuesday the Biden administration had agreed to purchase 1.4 million additional doses of mAbs from the company. According to emails provided by the DeSantis administration, HHS provided no indication there would be a limitation of supply prior to the announced policy shift.

On Aug. 29, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and HHS agreed to a distribution plan of 50,000 doses of mAbs per week through Sept. 19. Florida was informed Tuesday that its supply for the week of Sep. 13 would be just under 31,000 doses, which the state says is less than half of its demand. (RELATED: DeSantis Says Florida Government Agencies Will Face Fines If They Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines For Employees)

“We are very, very concerned with the Biden administration and the HHS’s recent abrupt sudden announcement that they are going to dramatically cut the number of monoclonal antibodies that are going to be sent to the State of Florida,” DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday. “Just last week on September 9th, president Joe Biden said that his administration would be increasing shipments of monoclonal antibodies in September by 50%, and yet on September 13th, HHS announced that it was seizing control of the monoclonal antibody supply and that it would control distribution. And then on September 14th, the announcement was more than 50% of the monoclonal antibodies that had been used in Florida were going to be reduced.”

“What the HHS and the Biden administration is now doing is they’re saying that all of the reduced amount will go to the state, and we’re responsible not only for sourcing our sites, which we’re happy to do, but any infusion center, any provider, any hospital will have to come through the state and to just spring this on us starting next week, we’re going to have to do that. There’s going to be a huge disruption and patients are going to suffer as a result of this.”

An HHS spokesperson told the Daily Caller the agency is “focused on ensuring consistent availability of COVID-19 monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapeutic products for administration sites across the country. We are constantly assessing the environment and our distribution process to determine if and when changes need to be made, and we have adjusted the distribution process several times this year already to optimize our stewardship of these products.”

“The recent increase in the prevalence of the Delta variant coupled with low vaccination rates in certain areas of the country resulted in a substantial (20-fold) increase in the ordering and utilization of mAbs since mid-July. Just seven states accounted for about 70% of our monoclonal antibody ordering,” the spokesperson added. “As such, we have updated the distribution process again this week to allow for a more consistent supply of mAbs that is responsive to cases and utilization in all geographic areas of the country.”