Monoclonal antibodies (MAB) are lab-created proteins that help those already infected deal with the virus. They have been intensively deployed in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas – states dealing with the recent surge of Delta-variant cases. With the exception of Louisiana, they are all run by Republicans.
On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced it would take over the distribution of these treatments using the Defense Production Act and would be centralizing them under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A HHS spokesperson said this was being done to avoid shortages, as the seven states account for 70% of all orders.
“Given this reality, we must work to ensure our supply of these life-saving therapies remains available for all states and territories, not just some,” the spokesperson told CNN.
“HHS will determine the amount of product each state and territory receives on a weekly basis. State and territorial health departments will subsequently identify sites that will receive product and how much,” the spokesperson said. “This system will help maintain equitable distribution, both geographically and temporally, across the country – providing states and territories with consistent, fairly-distributed supply over the coming weeks.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has clashed with President Joe Biden on Covid policies – from mask mandates to compulsory vaccination – said that the move has resulted in cutting the supply to his state by more than 50%.
The federal government has allocated fewer than 31,000 doses to Florida this week, while the average need for hospitals and state clinics is 72,000, his office said.
DeSantis said on Thursday that he has reached out to GlaxoSmithKline, another pharmaceutical company, to purchase their MAB treatment in order to make up the shortfall.
In Texas, the Biden administration told the state “to reduce its use of the therapeutic treatment that has literally been saving lives and reducing hospitalizations,” Mark Keough, a judge in charge of Montgomery County, just north of Houston, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“The manufacturer has confirmed supplies are ample but due to the Defense Production Act, the White House and it’s agencies are the only entities who can purchase and distribute this treatment,” Keough added.
“So, less than a week after the president tells us his patience is wearing thin and he is mandating vaccines to millions of Americans, his administration limits and all but removes a non-controversial and highly successful treatment from our war chest of combating this virus,” he said.
One DeSantis aide said that the HHS hasn’t adequately explained its move, or given a warning.
“They had a vague statement about ‘equity’ but sorry that doesn’t cut it,” the aide told Real Clear Politics. “No explanation of how the allocation was determined. No explanation of why it’s only Florida and a few other red states being restricted. No warning.”
“How is it equitable to only send treatment for HALF the Floridians who need it, & NO state sites in Alabama?” DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw asked on Twitter.
She also pointed out that, just weeks ago, Democrats and their allies in the corporate press were claiming that MAB treatments were a scam to enrich a DeSantis donor – prompting a war of words – but have now suddenly pivoted to claiming that Florida is using too many doses.
Some pundits are going so far as to speculate that the move is part of a “civil war” in the US, since six out of seven states hardest-hit by HHS rationing are run by Republicans, and incumbent Donald Trump won all of them in the 2020 election.
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