In her latest vaccine- and logic-resistant public disservice announcement on coronavirus, Governor Kristi Noem cheerfully advises her vaccine-resistant tells her followers that “if you get covid and are at high risk, monoclonal antibody treatments are cutting hospitalizations in half. Ask your doctor if they’re right for you.”
Noem’s message fits with a shift in messaging from public health experts who say Americans haven’t been made sufficiently aware of the effectiveness of monoclonal antibody treatments. So it is nice to see the Governor following a little bit of the science for once.
But the FDA revised Emergency Use Authorization (the same kind of EUA that many of Noem’s followers said marked the coronavirus vaccines as experimental and dangerous and thus justified not getting the vaccine) limits monoclonal antibody treatment to high-risk individuals age 12 and over who have tested positive or been exposed to covid-19. Post-exposure preventive use is available only to patients who are immunocompromised or not fully vaccinated. The high-risk criteria include old age, pregnancy, overweight, kidney disease, diabetes, and other conditions. The FDA does not allow use of REGEN-COV in patients who are hospitalized due to covid-19, who require oxygen therapy due to covid-19, or who are already on oxygen therapy and have to crank up their oxygen due to covid-19.
And because people like Noem have resisted promoting the vaccine, and because people emboldened by Noem’s poor leadership have refused to get it, we’re now running short on monoclonal antibody treatments:
Supply of monoclonal antibody treatment, one of the most effective therapies for symptomatic COVID-19 patients, is now severely limited as outbreaks in mostly southern states with low vaccination rates drive a surge in demand.
“On a national level, it’s been devastating,” said Family Health Centers of San Diego infectious disease specialist Dr. Christian Ramers. “In my own clinic, we now are told that we have barely a week’s supply. People that don’t want to get a vaccine surprisingly are actually really embracing this, even though this is experimental, not FDA approved with no long-term data. People, once they get sick, they want something that’s really effective.”
The shortage is so dire that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is asking healthcare providers to prioritize the highest-risk people.
“People that we would normally be able to treat if this was last week or last month, we’re having to tell them no,” Dr. Ramers said. “This is a very uncomfortable place to be in to have to ration care. No physician and no healthcare provider wants to have to do this” [Allie Raffa, “‘We Have Barely a Week’s Supply’: Nationwide Monoclonal Antibody Shortage Forces Difficult Decisions,” NBC: San Diego, 2021.09.22].
The shortage is affecting health care providers everywhere, including South Dakota:
“Weekly for the last approximately month, we’ve been giving up to 200 monoclonal antibodies throughout our organization per week, the allocation last week cut that in half,” said Brandi Tackett, director of infusion services at Monument Health.
This week, Monument Health received just 96 monoclonal antibody doses. With the recent surge of COVID cases and limited treatment options, Monument Health has to make a decision.
“Our COVID patient population is still pretty high in Western South Dakota, with our limited availability with our COVID monoclonals, our availability to treat all eligible patients has been reduced and we are treating the most high-risk patients first,” said Tackett [Gillian Trudeau, “A Covid-19 Treatment Is Now Limited Around the Nation,” KOTA-TV, 2021.09.22].
Governor Noem could promote fully authorized coronavirus vaccines that are available to almost every American age 12 and up, increase our vaccination rate, and prevent positive cases, hospitalizations, and death. Instead, she promotes emergency-use-only monoclonal antibody treatments available only to some patients and in the process contributes to the shortage and rationing of those treatments.