Political skeptics are calling Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent promotion of monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID- 19 a political stunt, despite the fact that hospital leaders requested the governor get the word out about the life-saving treatment during a virtual meeting with the governor at the beginning of August.
The meeting came just as the treatment received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an early treatment for COVID-19 infections in people who are at high risk for severe infections.
On August 5, The Capitolist reported on the meeting with hospital leaders from across the state, during which hospital CEOs told the governor the news of available little-known monoclonal antibody treatments was not getting out and that they are effective if patients seek treatment with the onset of symptoms.
“The two messages here are really obvious: vaccinated people have a lot less potential of getting hospitalized — that’s extremely important,” said Carlos Migoya, President and Chief Executive Officer of Jackson Health System. “If you get sick, go see someone in the first seven days, monitor your oxygenation rate. There are machines nowadays you can put in your finger [and] if your number is down below 94 percent, that’s a problem.”
He advised those who do get very sick from COVID and experience low oxygen levels to go to the emergency department and ask for the monoclonal treatment. He said the monoclonal antibody treatments are very beneficial if given within the first seven days.
“Almost 100 percent of our patients have told us that 24 to 48 hours later (after the treatment), they feel much better,” agreed Tampa General President and CEO John Couris.
The governor assured them he would work to get that message out.
Since then, the governor has been going around the state, holding press conferences and publicizing the opening of clinics now administering the life-saving treatment.
Media and political competitors have questioned his motives, accusing him of promoting the treatment because of political contributions from investors in Regeneron, (one of the monoclonals) or promoting the treatment over the vaccine and masks, because, they say, he doesn’t believe in them.
Following a DeSantis press conference in Orlando Monday to announce a clinic offering monoclonal treatment, Florida House Representative Anna V. Eskamani (D-Orlando) tweeted, “@GovRonDeSantis comes to our City, doesn’t communicate w/local officials that he’s coming or why. Announces expansion of monoclonal antibody treatment for when you test positive for COVID, barely talks about vaccines & doesn’t even mention masks. W/e happened to prevention?”
While DeSantis does question the effectiveness or necessity of wearing masks, Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, reminds skeptics, the governor does encourage Floridians to get vaccinated.
According to Pushaw, since the vaccines became available the governor has hosted over 50 vaccine-specific events, appearing in 27 counties around the state and has published over 100 social media posts to highlight those efforts and promote vaccination.
“The efficacy and value of vaccines have been mentioned specifically at least 1,600 times in over 100 different public appearances from November 2020 until present,” she said.
“Both monoclonals and vaccines save lives,” she continued. “The only difference is that vaccines are preventative and will not help someone who is already infected with COVID-19. Monoclonal antibody treatment has a high chance of helping such patients…we want Floridians to know that both of these interventions are available free of charge, they are safe and effective, and they are certainly not mutually exclusive.”
The new Camping World Stadium facility in Orlando can treat up to 320 patients each day with the monoclonals. The Governor unveiled a similar facility in Jacksonville on Thursday and another in Brevard County today.