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Monoclonal antibody shortage in Alabama

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 8:42 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Alabama hospitals continue to struggle with a high number of hospitalizations and the demand for ICU beds. One powerful tool to keep people infected with COVID out of the hospital is getting monoclonal antibody treatment early on. But there is currently a shortage.

Dr. Scott Harris said he’s had several calls this last week. Hospitals and healthcare providers started calling about running out of monoclonal antibodies. The demand is there, but Health and Human Services changed the way the supplies are given in Alabama.

Regional Medical Center in Anniston announced Wednesday it was out of monoclonal antibodies to treat their patients.

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said others are also running out. “The feds just Monday evening three days ago abruptly changed the whole distribution process they stopped providers from directly ordering their own supply,” Harris said.

Dr. Harris said three-quarters of the supply of treatment was being used in states with low vaccination rates but high infection rates. HHS has ordered all supplies go to areas of high usage and hospitals have to prove they are using the product so it’s not just sitting on the shelf.

“Starting on Monday, it will be an opportunity for providers to place their orders with us and we will transmit those on to the wholesaler. We hope we have enough,” Harris said.

Alabama was already looking at a 30% cut in supply before the change. Under the new system, supplies could be even lower. The state health officer said they are trying to get out what supplies they can this week to RMC and others. The new ordering system will start next week.

Dr. Harris said the treatment is not for everybody. “It is for people who are not hospitalized yet, but are at high risk for getting ill or being hospitalized. That tends to be people who are older, who have chronic health problems or immune suppression,” Harris said.

Dr. Harris is not sure if this is being followed by every healthcare provider. Harris said ADPH will try to be as fair as possible distributing the monoclonal antibodies. The goal is to get it to areas of high demand and for those greatest at risk.

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