TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is launching a rapid response unit for Regeneron COVID-19 treatment to reduce likelihood of hospitalizations. The governor said the data shows the monoclonal antibody treatment would help patients in high-risk categories.
DeSantis said that the “overwhelming majority” of COVID hospital admissions have been among the unvaccinated, though there are breakthrough cases of COVID-19. He said that what hasn’t been seen is widespread vaccination having a limiting effect on waves of infections, though severe health outcomes are less likely for patients who have been vaccinations.
“Vaccination is clearly helping reduce serious illness, it’s reducing your likelihood of being hospitalized, but you also have people who are being hospitalized, so what tools do you have that make the most sense,” DeSantis said. “One of things we’ve been talking about recently is doing monoclonal antibody treatment such as Regeneron.”
Emergency use authorization was granted by the FDA in November. DeSantis says he believes the public, and even some doctors, may not be aware of its availability to the extent they should be.
Now, the governor is launching a rapid response unit using Regeneron treatment as a way to reduce the likelihood of hospitalizations and provide an early treatment option for the state’s COVID patients, as the delta variant continues to sweep through the population, particularly among the unvaccinated.
“Different hospital systems have done it, they’re doing it here in northeast Florida, but it was something, that the more we talked about it, the more people had questions, a lot of people had not even heard of it,” DeSantis said. “So, we see an effort to be able to supplement that effort here in northeast Florida, and other parts of the state, we’ll have additional announcements very soon, partially to be able to get more people in, and we’re going to bring a lot more Regeneron into Florida.”
Calling it the most effective treatment for people infected with COVID-19, DeSantis said the most high-risk patients are the ones who would benefit the most from a higher availability of the treatment, including the elderly, diabetic, and obese patients in Florida.
He said part of the launch, starting at noon in Jacksonville, would be to deploy the rapid response unit, but also to increase awareness of the treatment and deliver Regeneron to those who need it most.
Regeneron was the emergency treatment that helped former President Donald Trump overcome his COVID-19 infection in October 2020. After fighting off his own experience with the virus, Trump authorized millions of dollars of purchases of monoclonal antibody treatment from Eli Lilly and Regeneron, with the bulk of the treatments purchased from Regeneron.
In a release from the company, Regeneron announced that the U.S. government had purchased 1.25 million more doses of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail in early 2021, pushing the U.S. “potential” supply to more than 1.5 million doses.
“COVID-19 continues to sicken hundreds of thousands of Americans every day and the people of Regeneron are committed to help,” said Leonard S. Schleifer, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Regeneron in January. “Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic will require a combination of public health measures, vaccines and therapeutics. We are pleased to work with the U.S. government to supply our antibody cocktail as an important weapon in this fight.”
The governor was joined by Mayor Lenny Curry, Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie, DOH Interim Duval County Health Officer Tito Rubio and FDEM Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kenneth Scheppke.
Along with the governor, the state officials and Mayor Curry urged Florida residents to seek out the treatment option, whether or not they have been vaccinated for COVID-19, saying the treatment is “effective, it works” but is not currently well-known in the community.
“People need to know this exists, they need to know this unit is here if they don’t have access to their healthcare provider,” Curry said.
Addressing the public and the press, Scheppke thanked the governor for “highlighting the therapeutic advancement” that the Regeneron treatment represents.
“It’s great for folks who are vaccinated but who are at high risk for progression of the disease, it’s great for folks that are unvaccinated who get this disease, it’s great for folks who are unvaccinated, that are not ill, but have come into contact with a household contact with somebody who has gotten COVID,” Scheppke said. “So as the governor reported, folks who are at high risk for progression to severe disease or death from COVID-19, this therapy can reduce your risk of hospitalization and death by 70%.”
Scheppke says the treatment can also help prevent risk of developing COVID-19 for those who come into contact with a household contact who has COVID by over 80%. He called it one of the better therapeutics out there, for COVID-19.
DeSantis said that use of Regeneron for COVID treatment isn’t an “either/or” with vaccines, but that you should seek both. The governor said the state surgeon general has plans to create a standing order for Regeneron treatments. The state also plans to send “strike teams” to bring Regeneron to nursing homes, offering the treatment to patients as “early treatment for the most vulnerable.”
DeSantis also addressed the reports that the state had received hundreds of new respirators and ventilators, clarifying that there had been questions about respirators, which were not requested, but that the state had requested more ventilators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to increase the stock of available equipment.
Returning to Regeneron, DeSantis said the state would be ordering thousands of doses to promote availability.
“We can place orders for 10,000 treatments at a time,” DeSantis said.
Still, the governor said the best strategy was early treatment, even with an expected “baseline of exposure” to COVID-19 across the state, and the world. To find locations to receive monoclonal antibody treatments around the entire state, please visit floridahealthcovid19.gov.
“Still do this,” DeSantis urged Florida residents, whether or not you’re a high-risk patient, and whether or not you’re vaccinated. He encouraged Floridians to get their COVID-19 vaccinations as well.
The governor also said that the state would be considering providing a breakdown of case reports by county as different communities in Florida see different levels of COVID spread amid the delta variant’s surge of cases. He clarified that daily reports to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue for daily case tracking.