Gov. Ron DeSantis is traveling the state to promote success stories in people who received Regeneron’s COVID-19 treatment amid “resistance” from medical experts to talk about the treatment.
Florida has opened at least 21 sites offering monoclonal antibodies, a therapy available to people at risk for severe infections when they test positive. However, that antibody cocktail was hardly known to the public, at least until this month, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the use of the drug.
Promoting the antibody cocktail at the Hillsborough County Department of Health on Monday, DeSantis had Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez share the positive experience her mother and aunt, both octogenarians, had with monoclonal antibodies after they tested positive. DeSantis also invited the daughter and granddaughter of Louis Baron, a 98-year-old World War II veteran who tested positive and received the treatment earlier this month while recovering from a partial hip replacement.
Baron’s family credited the DeSantis administration for expediting his treatment when they called and wrote the Governor’s Office detailing their struggles trying to get it for him in Sarasota.
“If you are a facility or a hospital that has these Regeneron shots, do not hesitate. Please administer them the second your patient tests positive for COVID,” said Baron’s granddaughter, Alexandra Levine.
DeSantis predicted COVID-19 will be an endemic virus, meaning it will be an infection that never fully goes away, like the common cold or the flu. Monoclonal antibodies could become central to treating the disease, he continued.
“I think one of the frustrating things was just seeing people who had been admitted this summer and very few of them got this, but very few of them even knew about it,” DeSantis said. “So this is something that needs to be part of what we do going forward.”
Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody therapy has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death among people at risk for severe cases by 70%. The drug also holds up against the delta variant, unlike Eli Lilly’s version.
“I can tell you that the data on this is very good. Even Dr. (Anthony) Fauci acknowledged that this is something that’s very effective,” DeSantis said, referring to the White House adviser he has frequently criticized.
However, the medical community has not been completely honest about COVID-19 and its treatment, DeSantis alleged.
A reporter asked the Governor, who has been criticized for not promoting vaccines with the same vigor lately, whether doctors have resisted talking about the treatment. There’s been “resistance” to talking about treatment at all, he replied.
“I think there’s always been a part of this where they would tell the public what they thought would lead to the behavior that they wanted to see,” DeSantis said. “So I think that there was some concern that if you told people there’s treatment that could be effective that may cause them not to seek vaccination.”
“Of course, that’s not the message,” he continued. “This is not in lieu of. This is in addition to.”
Health experts, including the Florida Division of Emergency Management’s chief medical officer, Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, say vaccines are still the most effective way to prevent a COVID-19 infection. If people test positive, whether they’re vaccinated or not, DeSantis and Scheppke say monoclonal antibodies are the fast-acting treatment people need.
DeSantis has been crisscrossing the state this month to promote Regeneron’s antibody cocktail. He was at the Duval County Health Department Monday morning to promote it and will be at the Bay County Health Department later Monday afternoon.