FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Doctors have successfully used monoclonal antibody treatments to help people with COVID-19. However, as the coronavirus surges across the country, the federal government recently announced a national shortage of the treatment.
"The federal government is now going to start rationing monoclonal antibody treatments to states," explained Governor Andy Beshear during his Thursday press conference.
How much will Kentucky receive?
Beshear says Kentucky will likely be rationed 4,500 treatments per week. That's a problem because numbers indicate that Kentucky is using more and more of this treatment.
How much is Kentucky using?
According to the Governor's Office, the week ending on September 14th, Kentucky hospitals used 5,063 monoclonal antibody treatment courses. The week before that, they used 3,642.
As the number of uses goes up, the number of reserved courses is also going down. The week of the 14th, Kentucky had 6,883 additional courses on hand. The week before that, it had 7,435.
Simply put, Kentucky will soon burn through its reserved supply and not receive enough new supply to keep up with demand.
"We are going to be at a point, I think within a week, where there are going to be people who want and need this treatment, and we are not going to have enough of it," said Beshear.
What does this shortage mean for hospitals?
Beshear believes it could put doctors in a tough situation.
"Doctors are going to have to use other things that haven't proven to be as good as this treatment. They're going to be rationing care," said Beshear. "They are going to have to look at individuals and make the tough decision of who gets the best medication and who doesn't."
"That's a horrendous position to be in," said Beshear.
What are monoclonal antibodies?
Earlier this week, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack explained that monoclonal antibodies are synthetic antibodies created in labs. They give patients a temporary immune boost. Ideally, that boost is supposed to help people have a milder case of COVID-19.
However, Stack added that these antibodies do not teach a patient’s body how to create its own antibodies.
“Monoclonal antibodies are an important tool, but we have another alternative, vaccinations. Vaccines prime your immune system to create natural antibodies that your own body will produce to create a natural immune response that then can protect you for at least eight months or more,” said Dr. Stack. “It’s a lot easier to get vaccinated than to get monoclonal antibodies.”
Should you rely only on monoclonal antibodies?
Beshear and Stack say no.
"What this shortage ought to tell you is that if you’re unvaccinated and you get really sick, not only might there not be a bed in the hospital for you because they are so full, but that monoclonal antibody treatment might not be there for you either,” said Beshear earlier in the week. “That thing you’re counting on might not be available. What is available, and there are no supply issues at all, are these safe and effective vaccines.”
"We cannot rely on monoclonal antibodies," Beshear said on Thursday. "We have to get vaccinated."