A state lawmaker came to the rescue in North Florida last week, intervening in a plan that would have shuttered a monoclonal antibody treatment site at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds.
First reported by the NWF Daily News, the intervention came after Okaloosa County Commission Chair Carolyn Ketchel caught news the Florida Department of Health planned to close a treatment site on Dec. 18.
Wanting to stop the closure, Ketchel buzzed Republican Rep. Patt Maney asking for help. Maney, the newspaper reports, got Gov. Ron DeSantis’ blessing to delay the closure another 30 days.
The Northwest Florida Fairground site is among the dozens DeSantis opened earlier this year amid a rising wave of COVID-19 cases. The Republican Governor embarked on a roadshow of sorts, touting the drug and opening sites across the state.
Monoclonal antibodies, like those manufactured by Regeneron, are lab-created antibodies proven to mitigate COVID-19 symptoms and complications.
“If treated early, the success rate is very, very high,” DeSantis lauded in September.
Yet despite the fanfare, sites across the state continue to close or are otherwise facing supply issues.
The shortage of monoclonal antibodies in Florida comes months after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services significantly reduced Florida’s allotment of doses from both Regeneron and Eli Lilly — two makers of the cocktail.
In November, state lawmakers OK’d a $643.4 million purchase of Glaxo’s version of the monoclonal antibody treatment, which isn’t funneled directly through the federal government.
The purchase came after DeSantis urged President Joe Biden in September to acquire more doses.
“We want to get you the treatment you need, and (President Joe) Biden doesn’t want to give it to you,” DeSantis told Fox News in late September. “But I’m going to come hell or high water to do whatever I can to get it for you.”
Four monoclonal antibody treatment sites in South Florida temporarily closed Tuesday as the state seeks additional doses from the federal government. Others, meanwhile, are handing off the treatment to community partners.