On August 12, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a statewide program to deliver monoclonal antibodies to eligible Floridians with COVID-19. The media attacked him for prioritizing an expensive treatment over a less expensive vaccination. Those attacks fell flat when data showed that Florida’s vaccination rates match the national average. DeSantis had launched multiple programs to make vaccines easy to get. He also traveled the state promoting them.
Since that attack didn’t work, the corporate media found another angle: The CEO of Citadel, a hedge fund, donated to a political committee that supports Governor DeSantis. Citadel owns $15.9 million in shares of Regeneron, one of the companies that manufacture monoclonal antibodies. The implication is that DeSantis’s promotion of monoclonal antibodies financially benefits a donor.
DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw pointed that of Citadel’s $39 billion in investments, more was invested in Pfizer and Moderna than Regeneron. Those two companies provided the overwhelming majority of the 417,477,975 vaccine doses delivered in the United States.
It’s a mystery why Associated Press reporter Brendan Farrington seems surprised that an investment fund held shares of companies with promising COVID-19 treatments. It would be more surprising if one did not. Why would he assume that DeSantis knows the details of Citadel’s investment portfolio? Farrington also reports that Texas Governor Greg Abbott received Regeneron after testing positive for COVID-19 this week.
Because DeSantis and Abbott oppose mask and vaccine mandates along with other COVID restrictions, Farrington positions their promotion and use of monoclonal antibodies as a substitute for the vaccine:
Experts agree that keeping people out of the hospital is a top priority, but say vaccines — not treatments for people after they get sick – are the best way to do that. The Regeneron drugs, when given within 10 days of initial symptoms, have been shown to cut rates of hospitalization and death by roughly 70%. The vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. have been proven in large, real-world studies to be 95% effective against hospitalization.
Excellent reporting right there. Farrington failed to note that Abbott is vaccinated. He tested positive and credited the vaccine for his remaining asymptomatic. If he received Regeneron, it was out of an abundance of caution. Further, amid a spike in cases with rising hospitalization rates, vaccines will not help those already infected. Pfizer and Moderna require two doses spaced a few weeks apart. The CDC considers a patient fully vaccinated after a minimum of 35 or 42 days, respectively.
Someone who is symptomatic today, whether he is vaccinated or unvaccinated, needs effective treatment. The vaccines and natural immunity have helped to disconnect illness from death. To decouple illness from hospitalization, DeSantis is pushing the treatment President Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set up an entire website and 24/7 hotline to facilitate. Here is HHS Assistant Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine telling Americans that the effective treatment is available:
Levine is clear that monoclonal antibodies stop symptomatic illness from progressing to hospitalization and death. DeSantis reiterated those concepts when he spoke at a treatment site earlier this week:
“Early treatment with these monoclonal antibodies – Regeneron and others – have proven to radically reduce the chances that somebody ends up being hospitalized. Reducing hospital admissions has got to be a top priority.”
Unlike during the early pandemic, when the government stopped almost all non-COVID care, hospitals are back to normal operations. Under normal conditions, 85-90% of beds should be full most of the time. Preventing COVID-19 from progressing to hospitalization preserves the system to care for all patients.
Regeneron is also not the only treatment brand. Early in the pandemic, Eli Lilly had a formulation. HHS stopped the distribution of their treatment due to decreased effectiveness against new variants. GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology have obtained an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for their formulation of sotrovimab. Both are being purchased and distributed by HHS. As of August 1, the Florida map showed dozens of distribution sites.
For more than a year, the CDC and NIH told doctors to send COVID-19 patients home until they were so sick they needed hospital care. Along with the FDA, the NIH discouraged the use of repurposed drugs promoted by frontline clinicians to reduce symptoms. Many hospital systems prohibited doctors from prescribing them. Going home and hoping your illness doesn’t progress is terrifying for patients.
In May of 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced that monoclonal antibodies would be the first outpatient treatment recommended by the NIH. That was during a period of declining cases. When cases started to rise again a few weeks ago, the T.V. doctors and health agency bureaucrats did not use their time in the public eye to remind physicians and Americans that the treatment was available.
DeSantis is using his podium to ensure Floridians know. He is also operationalizing the delivery within his state for the most vulnerable populations. In my own experience, helping patients access the therapy is like unlocking an achievement in a video game. DeSantis’s actions help remove the added stress of locating and receiving treatment from the patient experience.
Farrington wrote hundreds of words to take a swing at Governor DeSantis for promoting the treatment the Biden administration recommends. In trying to make it look like dirty dealing, Farrington only succeeded in making himself look ridiculous.