Ron DeSantis Was Right about Monoclonal-Antibody Therapy

President Joe Biden participates in a briefing alongside Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, in Miami, Fla., July 1, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Florida’s governor was blasted by progressives for promoting Regeneron’s COVID treatment. Now, demand is so great the Biden administration is rationing it.

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Florida’s governor was blasted by progressives for promoting Regeneron’s COVID treatment. Now, demand is so great the Biden administration is rationing it.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T wo months ago, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida was being roundly castigated for promoting the use of Regeneron’s monoclonal-antibody treatment as part of his state’s efforts to fight COVID-19. Desperate to find something sinister in the push, DeSantis’s critics threw out every charge they could dream up. At first, the line was that Regeneron’s treatment didn’t work. Then, it was that Regeneron’s treatment worked fine, but represented a dangerous distraction from the vaccine. And, finally, it was that Regeneron’s treatment was part of a corrupt plot to enrich DeSantis’s donors.

Today, we learn from the Washington Post that, actually, none of that was the problem. Instead, DeSantis’s sin is that he has been relying upon monoclonal-antibody treatment too much, and that this is unfair to other states that now need it.

What a difference eight weeks make.

The Post informs us that the Biden administration has been so impressed by the impact that Regeneron’s treatment has made that it is now seeking to “stave off shortages” of the drug by “purchasing 1.4 million additional doses” and tasking the Department of Health and Human Services with setting “the rules for distribution . . . instead of allowing states, medical facilities and doctors to order them directly.” In explaining this move, the Post submits that “soaring demand for the therapy represents a sharp turn from just two months ago, when monoclonal antibodies were widely available and awareness of them was low” — which . . . is certainly one way of admitting that the same people who relentlessly condemned DeSantis for trying to raise that “awareness” “just two months ago” are today coming around to his point of view.

Last month, the former head of Planned Parenthood, Dr. Leana Wen, told CNN that the Republicans who were enthused about the treatment were “backwards”:

“We know what works to prevent people from contracting this disease in the first place, masking and vaccination. We should be focusing on these preventive measures,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. “It’s totally backwards to say that we should be focused on treatment instead of emphasizing prevention, and the steps that we know work to stop Covid-19 in the first place.”

A few days later, this line was echoed almost verbatim in the Daily Beast by Dr. Christian Ramers, an infectious-disease specialist at Family Health Centers of San Diego who proposed that promoting Regeneron’s treatment was “a backwards strategy.” “It’s so much better to prevent a disease than to use an expensive, cumbersome and difficult-to-use therapy,” Ramers submitted. “It does not make any medical sense to lean into monoclonals to the detriment of vaccines. It’s like playing defense with no offense.”

Of course, this was never remotely true. Yes, in an ideal world, all Americans who are able would go and get vaccinated. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a free country, and for whatever reason, a considerable number of people in this free country of ours are just not going to do what Dr. Wen and Dr. Ramers want them to do. As a result, our various governments have been faced with a choice. They can either (a) throw their hands up and say, “Well, if you won’t get vaccinated, I guess we’ll just watch you die,” or (b) accept reality and say, “Okay, bad decision, but I guess we’ll try to help you some other way.” From the moment that monoclonal-antibody treatment became a viable option, Governor DeSantis and others chose this second course of action. Two months later, it has become so obvious that they were right, the Biden administration even feels obliged to play Ration Cop. I wonder: Is the president “backwards,” too?

Over time, the Regeneron-inspired criticisms of DeSantis have all been rolled into the vague and unfalsifiable allegation that, while the company’s drug may indeed work, DeSantis’s promotion of it has always served a broader political goal — which, apparently, is to “downplay the vaccines.” But this, too, is preposterous. Explaining his approach at a press conference two weeks ago, DeSantis made it abundantly clear that he is not hoping to “lean into monoclonals to the detriment of vaccines” or to “play defense with no offense,” but to adopt an all-of-the-above approach. “If you’re at risk,” the governor said, “the best thing you can do beforehand, obviously, is to get vaccinated. But even if you are, and if you’re not, if you do become COVID-positive, you have an opportunity to get early treatment using these monoclonal antibodies.” “This is not in lieu of [vaccination],” DeSantis concluded. “It’s in addition to.” Back when the state began to promote Regeneron’s therapy, Florida ranked 21st in the nation in “giving people of all ages at least one shot.” Today, it is 17th. From what, exactly, is the governor supposed to be distracting people?

That DeSantis and others were so roundly lambasted for their promotion of Regeneron’s treatment was always peculiar, given that they were following the Biden administration’s own lead. Indeed, as the New York Times reported back in early August, monoclonal-antibody treatments have long been a “a key component of the federal strategy to reduce the toll of the worst outbreaks,” which is why, under President Trump, the federal government bought up the entire supply and distributed it to the states for free. Sometimes, good news can just be good news — yes, even if Ron DeSantis is the one delivering it.