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Monoclonal antibody supplies limited in S.C. due to nationwide shortage

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 11:53 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A treatment intended to keep high-risk patients with COVID-19 out of the hospital is running low in South Carolina, according to the South Carolina Hospital Association.

The association said some providers have even run out of that treatment, monoclonal antibodies, and the drug will not be restocked before next week.

Earlier this week, the federal government took over the distribution of monoclonal antibodies because of a nationwide shortage, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC said before that, hospitals and other antibody providers across the state had ordered 13,000 doses of monoclonal antibodies directly from the manufacturer.

Those orders are now pending, and instead, the federal government will send 4,460 doses to the state for DHEC to distribute among facilities next week.

“There are, yes, are some providers who are running short or are out of antibodies at this time just because we haven’t received additional shipments in the last week or so,” SCHA Chief Operating Officer Melanie Matney said.

In a statement, DHEC said, “Due to the shortage, DHEC is determining the allocations for monoclonal antibody treatment sites in the state based on the amount the state will receive, sites’ utilization rates, and access. We are quickly working on the details with the goal of accommodating as many South Carolinians as we can with this successful treatment.”

Monoclonal antibodies have been given emergency authorization for use as a COVID treatment for people who are at high risk for hospitalization if they become infected, including people who are older than 65 or have a chronic illness.

The drug, which must be given within 10 days of symptom onset, is intended to keep people out of the hospital and recovering at home to free up hospital beds, which are still limited in South Carolina.

As of Thursday, about 84% of all of South Carolina’s hospital beds are occupied, with about 26% of those beds filled by a COVID patient, and about 82% of the state’s intensive care beds are occupied as well.

Matney said providers that had previously ordered monoclonal antibodies were not given much notice that those orders would be put on hold.

“We kind of learned about this at the same time on Tuesday, so I’m sure, with any change, there is a lot of concern that we’re — we don’t want to skip any beats, and we certainly don’t want any patients to go without the antibody treatments,” she said.

DHEC reported that more than 16,000 people with COVID have received monoclonal antibodies in South Carolina, as of the beginning of September, saying that has prevented about 2,000 hospitalizations and about 200 deaths.

But on a press call Wednesday, DHEC Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly said while the treatment has been effective, it is not a substitute for vaccination.

“Number one, they’re temporary. They only last three months. Number two, they’re only the antibodies. It doesn’t give you those memory cells,” Kelly said. “So the first thing to do to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.”

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