Monoclonal Antibody Treatments Popular Among Anti-Vaxxers Now Limited to Unvaccinated in Tennessee

Just 44% of Tennessee residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and more than 3,200 people in the state are currently hospitalized with the virus

Medical supplies
Monoclonal antibody treatment. Photo: Getty

Unvaccinated people in Tennessee are now getting prioritized for a potentially lifesaving COVID-19 treatment after it grew in popularity among anti-vaxxers, leading to a nationwide shortage.

Monoclonal antibody treatments, which provide a temporary boost of antibodies that fight COVID-19, became a popular virus prevention method with Americans who won't get a COVID-19 vaccine but want to protect themselves. Though the treatments are expensive, require a doctor's appointment and take multiple hours for the infusion, anti-vaxxers began getting them instead of the free vaccines.

The high demand for the treatments, which are in limited supply, led Tennessee health officials to recommend that people "most likely to be hospitalized" — meaning those who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or vaccinated but immunocompromised — get first priority.

In a statement to News Channel 5 in Nashville, the Tennessee Department of Health confirmed that they are advising doctors to limit who gets the treatment.

"Our recommendation to monoclonal antibody providers or individual facilities across the state is if they need to prioritize distribution of the treatment, the NIH guidelines are the recommended approach for that prioritization, including prioritizing those who are most likely to be hospitalized," they said. "Ultimately, this comes down to providers' clinical judgment to ensure those most at risk are receiving this treatment."

And the state government said this week that most vaccinated residents should be the last to get the treatment, the Tennessean reported.

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Currently, just 44% of eligible Tennessee residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and more than 3,200 people in the state are currently hospitalized with the virus, according to The New York Times.

Tennessee is one of seven southern states that have used 70% of the nation's supply of monoclonal antibodies in the last few months, NBC News reported. Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted the treatment over the vaccines, are using most of the doses.

The Biden administration ordered more doses of the treatment from the two main manufacturers, Regeneron and Eli Lilly and Company, last week, and said that they would place limits on how much went to each state.

"Our supply is not unlimited," said White House spokesperson Jen Psaki. "And we believe it should be equitable across states across the country."

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