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Demand soars for monoclonal antibody treatments in states with low vaccination rates

Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images Demand has been soaring for monoclonal antibodies – a treatment to lessen the severity of Covid-19 symptoms – especially among states with larger populations of vaccine-hesitant Americans , as the US continues to struggle with the highly contagious Delta variant in regions with lagging vaccination rates.

The demand for the treatment increased twentyfold in recent weeks because of the sharp rise in new cases accelerated by the Delta variant and lagging vaccination rates, and because of increased awareness of the treatment. But the distribution has, so far, been unequal.

Seven states that have seen Covid-19 rate spikes in recent weeks and months – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas – have used 70% of the federal supply of monoclonal antibodies.

Several Republican leaders have made the treatments a central part of their pandemic response, even appearing to champion them over vaccinations. The governors of Florida and Texas, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, have touted antibodies even as they oppose mask mandates and decry the federal vaccine mandates on large employers as “ illegal ” and a “ power grab ”. (The monoclonal antibodies are also provided by the US government.)

The Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, and they can also cut transmission of the virus – something the antibody treatments can’t do.

Antibodies are also significantly more expensive, at about $2,100 a dose. In comparison, the Covid vaccines cost between $10 and $20 a dose.

Dr Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said it was important to prevent the spread of the virus rather than simply treat the disease comparing the situation to “going upstream and turning off the spigot, rather than dealing with the waterfall”.

“By far the most effective [strategy] is vaccination,” he said. “That’s the way out of this thing.”

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