Following a speech last week by US President Joe Biden's speech last week, his administration assured American they would increase the average weekly pace of shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatment to states across the country. However, Florida officials are questioning why the supply to their state has been cut.
According to The Washington Post, the Biden Administration's move to take over distribution of COVID-19 therapy from states, medical facilities and doctors can now order the treatment directly in an effort to delay widespread shortages of the life-saving treatment.
The policy went into effect on Monday, with the US Department of Health and Human Services setting the rules for distributing the antibody treatment.
"HHS will determine the amount of product each state and territory receives on a weekly basis," an HHS spokesman told The Washington Post on conditions of anonymity. "State and territorial health departments will subsequently identify sites that will receive product and how much."
"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," he added.
The move towards equitable distribution raised the alarm in the southern states of Alabama, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana. They have been using around 70 percent of the national supply as the Delta variant surges.
In Alabama, president of the State Medical Association Aruna Arora expressed concerns about the treatment shortages amid historic hospitalization rates.
"Alabama's hospitals are full and under tremendous stress. That's why physicians are very concerned about federal efforts that will end up limiting our supply and access to this effective treatment," said Arora.
In Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis has championed the life-saving treatment for Floridians, a spokeswoman for DeSantis said in a statement: "It is regrettable that the Biden administration would play politics with people's lives during a pandemic, by withholding a life-saving treatment and providing mixed messages to Americans."
On Wednesday, a DeSantis aide told Real Clear News' Philip Wegmann that Health and Human Services has yet to explain the cut to the state.
"They had a vague statement about 'equity,' but sorry, that doesn't cut it. 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," the aide said.
Wegmann was responding to a tweet from Phil Kerpen, who outlined the timeline of the Biden Administration "blindsiding" Florida with cuts to the treatment's availability.
According to the timeline, issues with receiving treatment shipments started on August 29, where the state was informed: "if we agreed to switch to the 'dose pack' distribution, Florida could receive 25,000 dose packs (50,000 doses weekly for three weeks, through September 9." The timeline notes they have yet to receive 50,000 doses per week.
On September 3, the timeline notes that HHS "released the update on the mAb ordering process indicating that orders would be reviewed to ensure 70 percent utilization rates" and that state sites in Florida met these requirements. "Therefore, we had no reason to believe that our state's supply would be cut, and no indication of that from HHS."
It notes that on September 9, Biden announced his six-pronged national strategy to combat COVID-19, which included an increase of weekly pacing of shipments by a "further 50 percent in September."
On September 13, the timeline notes that the HHS announced they would be taking control of the distribution of the treatment.
Later that day, the Florida Department of Health expressed to HHS the need for 36,000 doses per week for just their 25 state-run sites. HHS did not indicate that a shortage was upcoming, "just that they were monitoring more closely."
On September 14, HHS reportedly sent an email informing Florida that their allocation of treatments for the week of September 13 would be "3,100 doses of BAM/ETE and 27,850 doses of REGN-COV."
"Contradicting recent and previous guidance from HHS, this was the first and only indication that Florida would receive a decreased supply and would be responsible for allocating among facilities," the timeline concludes.
DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw slammed the cutting of Florida’s treatments, as well as the explanation set forth by the Biden Administration as to why they were cut.
"Supply of monoclonal antibody treatment to Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas & other Southern states restricted by Biden Admin with no real explanation besides 'equity.' How is it equitable to only send treatment for HALF the Floridians who need it, & NO state sites in Alabama?" Pushaw wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
"Now hospitalization rates are down 50% in Florida, thanks to @GovRonDeSantis promoting & expanding access to monoclonals, but Alabama is getting hit harder. They do not have ANY state-supported sites as we do. And they'd planned to open some to relieve the burden on hospitals!" she added.
"But now they cannot, because of the Biden Admin's unexplained restrictions on monoclonal antibody shipments to the South. What are COVID patients in Alabama supposed to do?" Pushaw questioned.