The federal government has changed the way COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments are being distributed in the United States, including Georgia.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said this week the decision comes from supply shortages and demand for the treatments across the country, mainly due to the delta variant’s rapid spread.
Health-care providers will no longer be able to order the treatments directly. HHS said it will determine each state’s weekly allocation of monoclonal antibody products based on use and the number of new COVID cases.
The Georgia Department of Public Health said it will identify which sites in the state will receive the product and the amount each site receives.
Health-care providers must record their administration of the products in order to be eligible to receive additional shipments.
On Tuesday, Dr. R. Chris Rustin, director of the department’s Division of Health Protection, told a virtual Board of Public Health meeting preliminary data shows monoclonal antibody therapy is effective mostly early in treatment.
“You have to get it early on,” said Rustin, who added the state Department of Public Health is collaborating with the Department of Community Health to support the existing, 136 sites across the state. “It’s important to stress this is not a substitute for vaccines,” Rustin said.
Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic, laboratory-created antibodies. They help people at high risk for severe COVID illness, individuals who have tested positive for the virus within the last 10 days, or people who are close contacts of persons who have tested positive for COVID.
“We have safe and highly effective vaccines to protect against COVID-19. It is much easier to get a vaccine than risk becoming seriously ill with life threatening complications,” said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the agency’s commissioner.
“Monoclonal antibodies are in short supply and high demand and hospital beds are full. What Georgia does have is enough vaccine for all Georgians aged 12 and over to be vaccinated.”
As of Wednesday, 53% of Georgians have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine and 46% of Georgians are fully vaccinated.