DeSantis deploys unit in northeast Florida offering COVID-19 antibody treatment

Governor says response unit in Jacksonville will act as supplement

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Starting at noon, a rapid response unit will be deployed to offer a COVID-19 antibody treatment in northeast Florida, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The governor announced Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment will be offered as a supplement in northeast Florida while the area as the state is facing a surge in COVID-19 cases. He was joined by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie, Florida Department of Health Interim Duval County Health Officer Tito Rubio, and FDEM Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kenneth Scheppke.

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“The key to this is if you’re in one of those high-risk categories and you become COVID positive, doing it before the symptoms get very severe is when it’s most likely to work and so, part of it is some people don’t even know that this exists until they end up getting admitted to the hospital. At that point, it’s almost always too late for this to be effective,” DeSantis said.

The governor said the unit opening in Jacksonville would begin by taking referrals from the local health systems and later “moving to allowing this to be done on even an individual basis coming in and making appointments.”

The Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to the drug in November 2020, citing at the time the drug may reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression. DeSantis said high-risk groups include the elderly, those with diabetes or who are obese, and people who have compromised immune systems.

The governor said at this time, the state is seeing more COVID-19 cases as a result of the delta variant, which is more contagious and infecting vaccinated individuals more so than previous strains of the virus. He said he thinks this is “probably the best thing” to help reduce the number of hospitalizations in the state.

“I don’t think it’s an either or. I think we know in a situation, you know we have people in society that are not vaccinated, we also have people that are vaccinated, who are still testing positive. And so, either way, you know, if you get in that situation, particularly in these high-risk categories. This should be your stop,” he said of the treatment.

During a roundtable discussion last week with Florida hospital CEOs, the topic of monoclonal antibody treatments came up and Tampa General CEO John Couris said “from our perspective, both anecdotally and from a scientific perspective, they work.”

“Anecdotally, almost 100% of our patients have told us that 24 to 48 hours later they feel much better and symptoms start to subside. We’re doing 35 to 40 treatments, a day,” he said during the discussion.

To find a location for an infusion center near you, click here.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.