SAN ANGELO, TX — Monoclonal antibodies are lifesavers for treating patients for Covid-19. County Health Authority Dr. James Vretis praised the use of the monoclonal antibody treatment as being a game changer. The treatment, administered with a series of four shots, two in the stomach, puts synthetic antibodies into your blood and they kick in within 24 hours, working along natural antibodies to kill Covid’s infection. If a patient were to wait for enough natural antibodies to be created naturally, the timeframe for their effectiveness to kick in can be about two weeks. In two weeks time, the infection may grow in the lungs beyond a point any treatment works and slowly suffocate the patient to death. Shannon recommends receiving the monoclonal antibody treatment within 10 days or less of contracting Covid-19.
However, the availability of monoclonal antibody treatments like Regeneron in Tom Green County has been greatly reduced due to a new distribution policy enacted by the Biden administration starting September 13. Biden abruptly transitioned the monoclonal antibody (mAb) distribution policy from a direct ordering process to a federalized and tightly controlled distribution process.
The change puts more power in the hands of the president in choosing where the miracle treatment will be delivered. Meanwhile in Tom Green County, where Shannon Health is the largest health care provider treating Covid patients, availability of mAb treatment supplies is negatively impacted.
According to Shannon, the hospital and clinic system that serves Tom Green County administers about 800 treatments per month over the past two months. As of Friday afternoon, Shannon spokeswoman Lyndy Stone said the hospital system is down to just 87 doses of Regeneron. She added that at the current Covid-19 case load, Shannon is administering 35-40 treatments each day.
“We were notified today that we will receive a shipment of the drug tomorrow, but we do not yet know how much will be in that shipment,” Stone said.
Stone added that demand for the treatment is decreasing as the number of Covid-19 cases decreases. However, Congressman August Pfluger said this afternoon that he has signed a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra expressing his concern about the new distribution system for mAb treatments.
“Prior to this announcement, the private distribution network worked well – getting providers and their patients the therapies they needed in a timely fashion. Now, we have heard from providers in our state who cannot get orders for mAbs as states scramble to set up a new distribution methodology,” Pfluger, among 55 fellow congressional leaders, stated in the letter.
The letter expressed concern, especially with break-though cases of Americans already vaccinated, that access to effective therapeutics like Regeneron is “a crucial weapon in our fight against this virus, and this order threatens our constituents’ access to some of the most effective available options.”
According to Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough in north Houston, the distribution change has the federal government allocating Regeneron to the states, and in this state, the Texas Department of State Health Services determines where the drug is distributed. When the Biden administration made the policy change, the county judge warned that Montgomery County may have to close its county treatment center due to lack of the drug. The state stepped up the very next day and provided the needed supplies to keep the site that serves multiple counties in the Houston area open at least for a while.
“While we’re good for tomorrow we will have to evaluate each days supplies and take each day at a time. Thank you in advance for your patience and know we’re working around the clock to keep this open,” Judge Keough wrote on Facebook.
NBC News reported on Sept. 21 that, “70 percent of the country’s supply has gone to seven Southern states: Alabama, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana” in recent months. And, the report stated, Tennessee was considering withholding the monoclonal antibody treatment from unvaccinated patients. The article quoted Tennessee’s top health official who told the state’s biggest newspaper, The Tennessean, “Clinically, it makes sense. But the doctor in me thinks about all these ‘what ifs?’ What if there is a super-high-risk older person, but they are not technically considered immunocompromised? Do they not get it but a 22-year-old unvaccinated person with asthma – they get it?”
As of Sept. 10, the latest date for the data report, 48.11 percent of Tom Green County residents are fully vaccinated; 54.87 percent are vaccinated with at least one dose, according to Texas Health and Human Services.