As COVID deaths continue to spike across the U.S.—primarily among unvaccinated populations—newly developed treatments for the disease are again receiving attention. Monoclonal antibody (mAb) therapies are among the most effective. In this treatment, patients are infused with high concentrations of antibodies specifically engineered to fight SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.
These treatments have been particularly popular in states such as Florida, which has high numbers of unvaccinated people and has been suffering a major outbreak of the Delta variant since August. Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been dismissive of COVID vaccines as a personal choice without broader impact on society has nevertheless touted mAbs, calling them “the best thing we can do to reduce the number of people who require hospitalization.” Health officials argue that vaccination is a better way to avoid the need for these treatments in the first place. But mAbs are indeed effective when delivered early in an infection.
Florida has rolled out more than 20 nonclinical infusion centers—including libraries, theaters and churches—to administer mAbs to people who either have COVID or have been recently exposed to someone who does. Even so, public health workers have had trouble keeping up with demand—one viral photograph taken in late August shows a woman sick with COVID lying on the floor of the Jacksonville Library while awaiting a mAb injection. DeSantis said that more than 90,000 people have received the treatment as of September 16.