Florida’s monoclonal antibody treatment sites aren’t yet operating at capacity amid hiccups at some sites, including one in Orlando.
Speaking from the latest treatment site opening in The Villages on Wednesday, DeSantis continued raising public awareness for Regeneron’s antibody cocktail. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved that therapeutic for people at high risk for severe infection who test positive for COVID-19 or are exposed to the virus.
The drug has been shown to reduce the risk for hospitalizations and death by 70%.
Officials say more than 10,000 people have been treated with Regeneron’s cocktail in Florida.
Florida’s 21 treatment sites are averaging 100 to 200 patients per day. However, sites have the capacity to do 300 or more.
At least one site, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, has had booking problems. That site reserved too much walk-up availability, meaning appointments are booked a few days out yet the site isn’t operating at full capacity.
Alongside DeSantis in The Villages, Division of Emergency Management Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kenneth Scheppke said the state is adjusting appointment scheduling to reflect local demand. The earlier people are treated, the better, he continued — a message DeSantis backed up.
“It’s one thing to book people a week out like when we were doing the vaccine, because obviously a lot of people wanted it, you had to do it, whatever,” DeSantis said. “But this is very time sensitive, and I think it’s important that we’re able to get it done.”
At another treatment site in Jacksonville, a viral picture showed a woman lying on the floor while awaiting treatment. Scheppke said he has spoken with that woman, relaying her optimistic outlook on her treatment.
“She thinks that without this therapy she would have been one of those folks who went into the hospital, into the ICU, on the ventilator, perhaps died,” Scheppke said. “She credits this medication with saving her life.”
Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees has issued a standing order allowing Floridians to receive Regeneron’s treatment without a prescription or referral.
People can also receive the antibody treatment at medical centers and doctors’ offices. However, the state’s treatment sites are intended to provide access to at-risk patients before they are hospitalized.
President Donald Trump received monoclonal antibodies last year when he was treated for COVID-19, promoting it as a “miracle” and a “cure.” The federal government purchased 1.25 million doses of Regeneron’s version of the drug in January, making treatment free to patients and to states. But the treatment had largely fallen out of the public’s view before the recent push to bring it directly to communities.
Critics argue DeSantis has promoted treatment over vaccines this month by dedicating a dozen appearances to monoclonal antibodies. But he says it’s not a question of treatment versus vaccines, but that both are important, particularly as there are more breakthrough cases. Moreover, he spent much of the first half of the year crisscrossing the state to promote vaccines.
“This is not something that you’re talking about doing in lieu of vaccination, but it’s something — at a different stage — if you are affected, vaccinated or not, what are your options,” DeSantis said.