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Reeves: Miss. ‘begging’ for more monoclonal antibodies to treat Delta

Gov. Reeves discusses need for additional monoclonal treatments in the state.
Gov. Reeves discusses need for additional monoclonal treatments in the state.(WLBT)
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 4:39 PM CST
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MADISON, Miss. (WLBT) - Gov. Tate Reeves says the state is facing a shortage of monoclonal antibodies to treat the Delta variant, and the Biden administration has refused to help.

“We need more testing from the federal government. We need more monoclonal antibodies allocations from the federal government,” Reeves said. “And that’s what we’ve been begging them to send us, much to no avail, for the last 10 days.”

The news comes just a day after the state received its weekly allotment of monoclonals of fewer than 900. By comparison, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported a record one-day total of 6,592 new COVID-19 cases for Wednesday.

It also comes months after the federal government changed its policy for distributing the treatments. In September, CNBC reported that Health and Human Services took over the distribution of monoclonals following the summer surge caused by the Delta variant.

The change in policy, according to the American Hospital Association, was to ensure equitable distribution across the country. Under the policy, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response finds out how many monoclonal treatments are available from manufacturers each week and distributes the treatments based on each state’s positive case count and number of hospitalizations.

The new policy also was designed to encourage people to get vaccinated. CNBC reported the Biden administration pulled back on states’ allocations because it wanted vaccinations, not monoclonals, to be “the first line of defense” against the infection.

HHS numbers showed that prior to the takeover, three-quarters of the monoclonals in the U.S. were being ordered and shipped to states with the lowest vaccination rates, including Mississippi.

Mississippi has one of the worst vaccination rates in the nation, with just 56.2 percent of the population at least partially vaccinated, U.S. News and World Report states.

Reeves said another reason the federal government has pulled back is that the previous therapeutics are not as effective against the new Omicron variant.

“But it still works on Delta, and at the time, a week ago, when they quit sending us large shipments, we still had a large amount of Delta,” Reeves said. “(That) wasn’t true in other parts of the country. They didn’t have a lot of Delta in New York City or Washington D.C., but we still had a lot of the Delta variant.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported the state’s first case of Omicron on December 6.

For the week ending December 25, 59.6 percent of new cases in the state were the Omicron variant, the Daily Journal reported.

The nation is currently facing a shortage of monoclonals designed to treat the Omicron variant, as evidenced by a statement from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

It was not known if there was a shortage of therapeutics to treat Delta.

We have reached out to U.S. Health and Human Services and are waiting to hear back.

States across the country have been impacted by the shortages and by the Biden Administration’s change in monoclonal distribution policy.

On December 28, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, for instance, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra urging his agencies to free up the supply of monoclonals, saying “the lack of allocation... from the federal government continues to cause another immediate and life-threatening shortage of treatment options.”

“The sudden suspension of multiple monoclonal antibody therapy from distribution to Florida removes a healthcare provider’s ability to decide the best treatment options for their patients,” he added.

In September, NBC News reported that Tennessee was limiting monoclonal antibody treatment to unvaccinated residents, citing “extraordinary demand coupled with the federal government’s need to cap shipments.”

In Mississippi, state health leaders have been sounding the alarm on the monoclonal shortage since late December.

For the week of January 4, Mississippi received just 889 doses of monoclonals, despite efforts to obtain more, according to a tweet from State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.

Citing the limited supply, Dobbs said on social media that any new monoclonal or oral antiviral medications sent to the state would be set aside for those who are 65 or older, have weakened immune systems, or are “at highest risk of severe outcomes” if they become infected.

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