Recently, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a statewide plan to deliver monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19. Initial media attacks focused on one donor whose hedge fund happened to have investments in one company that makes the treatment, Regeneron.
When DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, hit back, noting that the fund had more significant investments in vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, the attack started to fizzle. When other media coverage reminded people that the federal government had already paid for all the doses the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is distributing, the dirty dealing allegation completely fizzled.
But those on the Left who see DeSantis as an existential threat in 2024 can’t let it go. They keep criticizing DeSantis for saying that effective monoclonal antibody treatment is available for high-risk patients suffering from COVID-19. They are super mad that he is not spending all of his time pushing vaccines. Here is one of the most partisan men on the internet making the point:
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 29, 2021
DeSantis traveled the state encouraging vaccination and touting the ease of access. A “60 Minutes” segment criticized him when he announced that Publix pharmacies would begin providing vaccination to expand access. The report was another ridiculous dirty-dealing smear. In reality, even if DeSantis does precisely what the media say leaders should do, he is still criticized.
Further, vaccines have been available to every American over the age of 12 for months. The Biden administration announced door-to-door efforts. People hear about vaccines in church, read on lighted highway signs that vaccines are available, and encounter banners offering them at nearly every pharmacy. There are PSAs on the radio, on television, and all over the web. The fact that Ron DeSantis is not tweeting about vaccines now has no impact on vaccination rates.
Effective treatment is an entirely different animal. For over a year, people who received a positive COVID-19 test were sent home and told to go to the hospital only if they became too ill to function. Some healthcare providers told the lucky ones to purchase an oximeter to measure their blood oxygen and go to the hospital if it fell below 92%. Some patients accessed early outpatient treatment from telemedicine services and frontline physicians beginning later in 2020. Still, the vast majority of those sick with COVID-19 were not treated.
In April of 2021, the NIH finally added monoclonal antibodies to the agency’s recommendations for outpatient treatment. As Delta surged beginning in the Southeast, this author urged governors with rising cases to highlight the availability of the treatment. I chastised the cadre of television doctors for not talking about how monoclonal antibodies can keep people out of the hospital. I even celebrated the efforts of the HHS and Dr. Rachel Levine, whose nomination to the agency I vigorously opposed, to get the word out. Governor DeSantis got the message and was the first governor to launch a statewide push to make monoclonal antibodies easy to access and highlight their use.
Either DeSantis’s actions or the rising death rates finally caused Dr. Anthony Fauci to speak up. In an August 24 briefing, he said, “We want people out there, including physicians as well as potential patients, to realize the advantage of this very effective way of treating early infection,” Dr. Fauci said. “Clinical trials have demonstrated that early treatment with anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies can reduce the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death by 70 to 85 percent.”
He added: “Bottom line is this is a very effective intervention for COVID-19. It is underutilized, and we recommend strongly that we utilize this to its fullest.” So, DeSantis and the Florida healthcare system were ahead of the curve, doing what Fauci asked the nation to do on August 24, and partisan critics like Rupar criticize his tweets about it.
The vaccinations that are widely available in the U.S. right now are a two-dose regime that can take up to 42 days to be fully effective. Even if someone gets vaccinated today, they can become ill during the vaccination process. Additionally, symptomatic cases among the fully vaccinated are occurring. Awareness of an effective treatment that keeps people from getting sick enough to need hospitalization now is critical in order to preserve hospital capacity and save lives.
Unless, like Rupar, you are so partisan that you want to see a state led by a Republican suffer unnecessarily. Will he will criticize Oregon Governor Kate Brown if she promotes the treatment? Her state set a new record for daily cases over the weekend. Brown’s state and Florida have a similar rate of fully vaccinated residents. Do you think Rupar will be counting her tweets as hospitalizations rise? Of course not.