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Hospitals grapple with more demand for COVID antibody treatments than supply

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 4:53 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 21, 2021 at 5:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A national shortage of antibody treatments aimed at preventing COVID hospitalizations is impacting supply in Hawaii.

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii says hospitals requested nearly 1,500 hundred doses of the drug from the federal government, but were allocated less than half or 680 doses this week.

Next week’s allocation is 600.

Hawaii hospitals have been offering antibody treatments. But last week, the federal government took control over distribution to states because of the overwhelming demand.

Hawaii didn’t get any shipments during the change-over.

“There were no distributions last week so none of states, including Hawaii, got any of these monoclonal antibody drugs last week,” said Hilton Raethel, association CEO and president.

“There were individuals (in Hawaii) last week and the early part of last week who were not able to get access to these drugs,” he added.

Raethel says new shipments are expected to start coming over the next day or so to the first two hospitals on the list: Hilo Medical Center and Wilcox Memorial Medical Center.

A total of 30 FEMA-funded staff are now in Hawaii to help administer the antibody treatments.

Hilo Medical Center has some FEMA-funded staff on property.

“We are very grateful that we got the allotment. We hear that it is on its way and we are very excited to receive it,” said Elena Cabatu, who oversees public and legislative affairs at Hilo Medical Center.

Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center has an outdoor clinic and is still waiting for its extra doses from the federal government.

“We still have the antibody therapy onsite. We currently have 59 doses,” said Jacob Schafer, director of infection control at the hospital. “We are keeping a close eye on that. We understand our order is on its way and we really hope to receive it this week.”

The monoclonal antibody treatments are given to people who have COVID symptoms to keep them out of the hospital. It’s the one drug that mainstream medicine and those who are vaccine resistant appear to agree on.

“It’s very much like the early stages of the vaccine rollout. Lots and lots of people are clamoring for this product,” said Brooks Baehr, spokesman for the state Department of Health.

“We’ve requested every single drop of the monoclonal antibody treatment that has been requested to us,” he added.

The New York Times has reported that seven southern states account for 70% of all of the orders for monoclonal antibodies.

“We are being penalized in a way because our vaccination rate is as high as it is and we’ve done well overall,” said Raethel.

“We are getting a smaller proportional allocation than what the southern states are because they have a much lower vaccination rate,” he added.

Both the vaccine and antibody treatments are paid for by the federal government. The COVID vaccine costs the federal government about $20 per dose while antibody therapy costs about $2,100 per dose.

Health leaders all say the antibody therapy is not a replacement for the vaccine.

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