As Virus Cases Surge, Biden Administration Encourages More Use of Antibody Treatments
WASHINGTON – In the face of overcrowded hospitals and a relentless wave of Delta variant cases across the country, the Biden administration on Thursday renewed its call for healthcare providers to use monoclonal antibody treatments, which can help Covid-19 patients who are at risk of getting very sick.
Dr Marcella Nunez-Smith, White House adviser on racial health equity, told a press conference that federal “emergency teams” deployed to hard-hit states were working to ” increase the use and confidence in antibody-based drugs. They have already been given to more than 600,000 people in the United States during the pandemic, she said, preventing hospitalizations and helping to save lives. President Donald J. Trump received such treatment when he was diagnosed with Covid-19 last year, before it was cleared for emergency use.
In states where vaccinations have stalled and cases have skyrocketed, treatments have become a key part of the federal strategy to reduce the toll from the worst outbreaks, underscoring how many Americans remain at risk.
The distribution of doses, ordered by medical providers, quintupled from June to July. About 75 percent of orders come from areas of the country with low immunization rates, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The administration “continues to stand ready to help states, territories and jurisdictions across the country connect more people” to treatment, Dr Nunez-Smith said Thursday, although it stressed that the vaccination was always the best option to prevent Covid-19.
Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said the Biden administration has deployed more than 500 federal employees to help state health departments and hospitals fight the Delta variant, including emergency medical workers in Louisiana and Mississippi and the Centers for Disease Control and prevention teams in Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri.
Dr Nunez-Smith said the administration has held virtual trainings on how to administer drugs for doctors and health system officials in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. In Arizona, federal teams are offering treatment at two sites, where none of the Covid-19 patients who received them had subsequently been hospitalized.
The treatments, which the federal government pays for and makes free to patients, mimic the antibodies the immune system naturally generates to fight the coronavirus. They have been shown to significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths when given to patients soon after symptom onset, usually by intravenous infusion. There is also some evidence that they may be able to prevent illness entirely in some people exposed to the virus. Unlike coronavirus vaccines, which take up to six weeks to provide full protection, antibody treatments can be given to patients who are already ill, with a more immediate effect.
The latest data from the Department of Health and Social Services shows that just under half of the distributed treatment supply has been used, by more than 6,000 hospitals and other provider sites, dating back to the end of the year. ‘last year. The federal government relies on state health providers and departments to report their usage figures and does not track the demographics of patients who receive the drugs.
Dr Nunez-Smith said shipments to Florida, which is experiencing a devastating increase in virus cases, increased eightfold in the past month, and more than 108,000 treatments were shipped across the country in July. .
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday introduced a “rapid response unit” to deliver Regeneron treatment in Jacksonville, saying the state would set up similar sites in other cities.
Interest in monoclonal antibodies has been uneven throughout the pandemic. When cleared last year, Regeneron and Eli Lilly’s treatments were expected to be in high demand and serve as a bridge in the fight against the pandemic before vaccinations ramp up. They have been tirelessly promoted by Mr Trump, who has called the Regeneron treatment “the cure,” and by senior health officials in his administration.
Yet, they have ended up sitting on the shelves of refrigerators in many places, even during recent outbreaks. Many hospitals and clinics did not make treatments a priority due to the time and difficulty of administering them at the time, when they needed to be administered by intravenous infusion. Doctors can now give the most frequently used treatment, starting with Regeneron, subcutaneously or by injection.
Understanding the state of vaccine and mask mandates in the United States
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of their immunization status, wear masks in indoor public places in areas affected by epidemics, a reversal of guidelines it offered in May. . See where the CDC guidelines would apply and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle for masks has become controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- Vaccination rules. . . and bbusiness. Private companies are increasingly demanding coronavirus vaccines for employees, with different approaches. Such warrants are authorized by law and have been confirmed in court challenges.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. On August 11, California announced it would require teachers and staff in public and private schools to be vaccinated or tested regularly, the first state in the country to do so. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-aged children are opposed to mandatory vaccines for students, but were more in favor of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff who don’t. don’t have their vaccines.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and large healthcare systems are requiring their employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, citing an increase in the number of cases fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their hand -work.
- new York. On August 3, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York announced that proof of vaccination would be required from workers and customers for indoor meals, gyms, shows and other indoor situations, becoming the first city America to require vaccines for a wide range of activities. . Employees of the city’s hospitals must also get vaccinated or undergo weekly tests. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon has said it will seek to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory for the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty soldiers “no later than” mid-September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees should be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
“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 the company’s antibody therapy may be able to prevent Covid. -19 when administered to people. live with someone infected with the coronavirus. “They have shown substantial therapeutic effects.”
Dr Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who was a researcher for the study, said the evidence for the benefits of antibody treatments had only grown in recent months. He said more needs to be done to educate doctors and patients about their effectiveness.
“Patients need to know how to call their doctor” and ask questions about treatments, he said. “In 2020, people with mild Covid were asked to stay at home. This message should pivot towards a more proactive message.
Regeneron aired a series of television commercials for its treatment this year.
Virtually all Covid-19 patients receiving monoclonal antibodies during the Delta outbreak are receiving the type made by Regeneron, one of three that were cleared 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% earlier in the pandemic.
Last month, the FDA extended its emergency clearance of the Regeneron treatment so that it can be used to try to prevent Covid-19 in a small number of high-risk patients. They include 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 was previously only available, like other monoclonal antibody treatments, to high-risk patients who had previously tested positive for the virus.
In June, the federal government indefinitely suspended shipments of Eli Lilly’s first licensed monoclonal antibody treatment, as new lab data suggested it would not work well in cases caused by the beta and gamma variants.
The government has not ordered any doses of a third treatment, from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir, which is only minimally used so far. Kathleen Quinn, spokesperson for GlaxoSmithKline, said the treatment is available at healthcare facilities in 26 U.S. states and territories.
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