PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Amidst a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases, Florida’s surgeon general is pushing the federal government for more access to monoclonal antibodies, arguing the state effectively distributes and treats patients at distribution centers.
There has been a reported shortage in the treatments.
"I was really surprised that I had a breakthrough infection after having the two doses of Moderna," said Sean Cooley.
Cooley said early access to monoclonal antibodies turned his COVID symptoms around quickly earlier this year.
"I took two rapid tests. They were both positive. And based on what I had seen on the news and all the promotion the governor had done on the monoclonal antibodies, I went on the Department of Health’s website and signed up to receive them the next day," Cooley said.
Despite being vaccinated, he said it was a rough ride.
"I was having a hard time breathing, really congested, felt achy all over. By the time I got to the treatment site the next morning, I felt like death. I was really glad I was able to get the treatment really quickly and within 12 hours, I was 90% better. Within a day, I felt almost back to normal," Cooley said.
Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious disease specialist in Wellington, said the problem right now is two-fold when it comes to supply of monoclonal antibodies.
"The one that was being used heavily was Regeneron because Regeneron was active against all the variants, particularly delta, and it could be given subcutaneously not just intravenously. So outside in the centers it was easier to give," Bush said. "It is in very short supply so most of it will be given at monoclonal antibody centers in the county which means long lines and limited availability. But secondly it doesn’t work well for omicron it at all."
Bush said it goes beyond that, saying the type that works better for omicron, Troviman, is also in short supply
"Most hospitals don’t have it right now," Bush said. "It’s very hard to find because the only places you can really rely on now are the monoclonal antibody distribution centers set up by the state government."
Bush said better access to testing, including at home testing, is part of the issue, as you need to know you are positive. And knowing who should get it is also key.
"Right now the antibody treatment is only recommended for people who have been diagnosed, have mild to moderate symptoms and have a risk factor. So the healthy 19-year-old would not qualify. The overweight 19-year-old would, the diabetic 19-year-old would, the elderly person heart disease kidney disease, etc. But it is not for everybody," Bush said.
Bush said testing will need to improve with anti-viral medications on the horizon.
"That should be just as good as the monoclonal antibody if you have been vaccinated and now you’ve been diagnosed and you take it at home by mouth and not have to go wait in a line," Bush said.
Cooley hopes others who are sick will soon be able to get the treatment like he did: fast.
"I would definitely say that having access to that treatment was. It turned me around an enabled me to continue on with life. I have two young kids, I've got a job," Cooley said.