As Virus Cases Surge, Biden Administration Encourages More Use of Antibody Treatments

WASHINGTON – Amid crowded hospitals and a relentless increase in Delta variant cases across the country, the Biden government on Thursday renewed its call on health care providers to use monoclonal antibody treatments that can help Covid-19 patients at risk of becoming very sick become.

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a White House Racial Health Advisor, said at a press conference that federal surge teams deployed to severely affected states were working to increase acceptance and confidence in the antibody drugs. They have already been given to more than 600,000 people in the United States during the pandemic, she said to prevent hospitalizations and save lives. President Donald J. Trump received such treatment when he was diagnosed with Covid-19 last year before being approved for emergency use.

In states where vaccination has stalled and cases have soared, treatments have become an important part of the federal strategy to reduce the number of the worst outbreaks, underscoring how many Americans remain at risk.

The distribution of doses ordered from medical providers increased fivefold from June to July. According to the Ministry of Health, around 75 percent of the orders come from regions of the country with low vaccination rates.

The government “remains ready to support states and territories and jurisdictions across the country to bring more people into contact with the treatments,” said Dr. Nunez-Smith on Thursday, despite stressing that vaccinations are still the best option for preventing Covid-19.

Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said the Biden government has dispatched more than 500 federal workers to assist state health officials and hospitals in fighting the Delta variant, including rescue workers in Louisiana and Mississippi and Centers for Disease Control and prevention teams in Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri.

Dr. Nunez-Smith said the government was providing virtual drug delivery training to doctors and health care officials in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. In Arizona, federal teams are offering the treatments at two locations, where none of the Covid-19 patients who received them were subsequently hospitalized.

The treatments, which the federal government pays for and makes available to patients free of charge, mimic antibodies that the immune system naturally produces to fight the coronavirus. When given to patients soon after symptoms appear, typically by intravenous infusion, they have been shown to greatly reduce hospital stays and deaths. There is also evidence that it may have the potential to completely prevent the disease in certain people exposed to the virus. Unlike coronavirus vaccines, which take up to six weeks to provide full protection, the antibody treatments can be given to patients who are already ill with immediate effect.

The latest data from the Ministry of Health shows that almost half of the distributed range of treatments had been used by more than 6,000 hospitals and other provider locations by the end of last year. The federal government relies on providers and state health authorities to report their usage numbers and does not track the demographics of the patients receiving the medication.

Dr. Nunez-Smith said shipments to Florida, which is experiencing a devastating surge in virus cases, increased eight-fold in the last month, and more than 108,000 treatment courses were shipped across the country in July.

Updated

Aug. 12, 2021, 7:54 p.m. ET

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday unveiled a “rapid response unit” for conducting Regeneron treatment in Jacksonville and said the state would establish similar locations in other cities.

Interest in the monoclonal antibodies was low throughout the pandemic. When they were approved last year, Regeneron and Eli Lilly’s treatments were expected to be in high demand and act as a bridge in fighting the pandemic before the vaccinations ramp up. They were tirelessly promoted by Mr. Trump, who called Regeneron treatment a “cure,” and by senior health officials in his administration.

Even so, they ended up on refrigerator shelves in many places, even during the recent power surges. Many hospitals and clinics did not prioritize treatments because they were time consuming and difficult to administer when they needed to be administered via an intravenous infusion. Doctors can now give the most commonly used Regeneron treatment, subcutaneously or by injection.

Understand the state of vaccination and masking requirements in the United States

    • Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public places indoors in areas with outbreaks, a reversal of the guidelines offered in May. See where the CDC guidelines would apply and where states have implemented their own mask guidelines. The battle over masks is controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
    • Vaccination regulations. . . and B.Factories. Private companies are increasingly demanding coronavirus vaccines for employees with different approaches. Such mandates are legally permissible and have been confirmed in legal challenges.
    • College and Universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require a vaccination against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
    • schools. On August 11, California announced that teachers and staff at both public and private schools would have to get vaccinated or have regular tests, the first state in the nation to do so. A survey published in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students but are more supportive of masking requirements for students, teachers, and staff who do not have a vaccination.
    • Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and large health systems require their employees to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, due to rising case numbers due to the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their workforce.
    • new York. On August 3, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that workers and customers would be required to provide proof of vaccination when dining indoors, gyms, performances, and other indoor situations. City hospital staff must also be vaccinated or have weekly tests. Similar rules apply to employees in New York State.
    • At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory for the country’s 1.3 million active soldiers “by mid-September at the latest. President Biden announced that all civil federal employees would need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular tests, social distancing, mask requirements and travel restrictions.

“These are important tools,” said Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who worked with Regeneron on a study that showed that the company’s antibody treatment could potentially prevent Covid-19 if given to people living with someone infected with the coronavirus . “They have shown significant therapeutic effects.”

Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital who reviewed the study, said the evidence of the benefits of antibody treatments has only grown stronger in recent months. He said more needs to be done to educate doctors and patients about how effective they can be.

“Patients need to know that they have to call their doctors and ask about treatments,” he said. “In 2020, people with mild covid were told to stay home. That message needs to become a more proactive one. “

Regeneron has aired a number of television commercials for his treatment this year.

Virtually all Covid-19 patients who receive monoclonal antibodies during the delta surge will receive the type made by Regeneron, one of three approved by the Food and Drug Administration during the pandemic. The company estimated last week that its treatment is now reaching more than a quarter of eligible patients, up from less than 5 percent at the start of the pandemic.

The FDA last month expanded its emergency approval for Regeneron treatment so that it can be used to attempt to prevent Covid-19 in a small number of high-risk patients. This includes people with certain health conditions who are not vaccinated or who may not develop an adequate immune response, who have been exposed to the virus, or who live in nursing homes or prisons. It, like the other monoclonal antibody treatments, had previously only been available to high-risk patients who had already tested positive for the virus.

The federal government indefinitely suspended delivery of Eli Lilly’s first approved monoclonal antibody treatment in June, as new laboratory data suggested it wouldn’t work well in cases caused by the beta and gamma variants.

The government has not ordered any doses of a third treatment of GlaxoSmithKline and Vir that has been minimally used to date. Kathleen Quinn, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline, said the treatment is available at health facilities in 26 states and US territories.

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