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Maury Regional experiences 80% decrease in antibody doses, following federal clamp on distribution

The Daily Herald logo The Daily Herald 9/20/2021 Kerri Bartlett, The Daily Herald
a woman in a blue shirt: Maury Regional Medical Center Pharmacist Courtney Goodman prepares a syringe with the vaccination for the COVID-19 virus during a distribution event for Maury County Public Schools on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. © Mike Christen / The Daily Herald Maury Regional Medical Center Pharmacist Courtney Goodman prepares a syringe with the vaccination for the COVID-19 virus during a distribution event for Maury County Public Schools on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.

Maury Regional Medical Center has already experienced a decrease in supply of therapeutic monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 after the federal government clamped down on its distribution earlier this week to states with low vaccination rates.

The hospital had to reduce its administration of the early therapeutic treatment by 80.5% this week because of a decrease in doses shipped by the federal government.

White House administration said this week that the federal government must be "equitable" in its distribution of the monoclonal antibodies, or mAb treatment, shown to decrease risk of hospitalization and save lives.

During a press briefing on Sept. 16, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said seven Southern states with low vaccination rates, including Tennessee, Texas and Florida, make up 70% of mAb usage, and there is a "limited" supply. 

More: Tennessee may run low on monoclonal antibodies that treat COVID-19 as feds cap shipments to protect supply

Maury Regional administered the early therapeutic treatment to at least 72 patients a day last week, but when the "supply chain slowed," the hospital was forced to reduce its use of the treatment, serving just 14 patients per day from Monday to Thursday, according to Rita Thompson, MRMC marketing director.

On Friday, the hospital was "fortunately" able to replenish its supply of the treatment, largely used to treat those 65 and over with preexisting conditions. 

"We have experienced an increased need of the treatment since the recent surge in cases," Thompson said. "Fortunately, we received a shipment of 500 doses this morning and will resume treating a larger number of patients daily," Thompson said.

The supply issue stems from a change in the way the treatment is distributed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Sept. 13.

HHS transitioned its distribution of the antibody treatment from a direct ordering process through the federal government to a state/territory-coordinated distribution system. Allocations of the monoclonal antibodies will now be determined, or rationed, by the Tennessee Department of Health, which will now keep a weekly record of the treatment doses distributed and used by hospitals. 

"We are required to report our doses used and doses on hand weekly and believe this usage data will lead to Maury Regional Health receiving regular shipments moving forward," Thompson said. 

Monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70% for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe disease, according to White House data. The monoclonal antibody therapeutic treatment is funded by the federal government, while patients pay an administration fee, typically covered by health insurance.

According to the White House, the U.S. government has shipped approximately 100,000 doses of monoclonal antibodies per week from July to August. 

HHS reports that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases has attributed to the increased use of monoclonal antibody treatment, especially in states with low vaccination rates, such as Tennessee and Texas.

"The increased incidence of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has caused a substantial surge in the utilization of monoclonal antibody (mAb) drugs, particularly in areas of the country with low vaccination rates. HHS is committed to helping ensure consistent availability of these critical drugs for current and future patients in all geographic areas of the country. As such, we have updated the distribution process for mAbs."

- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Tennessean recently reported that Tennessee has the most coronavirus infections of all U.S. states in the past seven days and over the entire pandemic when adjusted for population, according to data compiled by The New York Times. 

The state's vaccination rate lags behind — hovering at 44% — or approximately 10 points below the national average rate of vaccinations.

However, Maury County has been one of the leading counties in vaccination rates, reaching this week a rate of 57% of fully vaccinated residents.  

White House says distribution should be 'equitable'

The distribution change by the federal government comes as a surprise to some.

U.S. President Joe Biden promised to increase monoclonal antibody distribution by 50% to states in September, according to his six-pronged COVID-19 response strategy delivered on Sept. 9.

"As hospital systems experience increased COVID-19 cases, many have identified monoclonal antibody treatment as a key tool to improve health outcomes, prevent hospitalizations and reduce the strain on overburdened hospitals," the plan states. 

Psaki, addressed the sudden distribution change in antibody doses to states, during the press briefing on Sept. 16.

"In early August, we were distributing an average of 100,000 doses per week. Now we’re shipping an average of 150,000 doses per week," Psaki said. "But over the last month, given the rise in cases due to the Delta variant and the lower number of vaccination rates in some of these states — like Florida, like Texas — just seven states are making up 70 percent of the orders. 

"Our supply is not unlimited, and we believe it should be equitable."

Psaki further explained that the administration believes the supply should be balanced between states.

"We’re not going to give a greater percentage to Florida over Oklahoma, nor do I think are you suggesting that."

Biden's said the administration would deploy Monoclonal Antibody Strike Teams made up of clinical federal personnel "to ensure that more patients can access these lifesaving COVID-19 therapeutics."

The administrators also said it would take measures to allow more providers, including pharmacists, to administer monoclonal antibody treatment. 

Monoclonal antibody treatment protocol

Monoclonal antibody treatments are administered with a physician’s order to those who qualify and must be administered early in the disease process before symptoms are severe or require hospitalization. 

Monoclonal antibody infusions are generally available to Tennesseans who contract COVID-19 and are at least 65 years old or have a complicating medical condition, including some that are common, like hypertension or obesity.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses and are most effective if administered 7-10 days within onset of symptoms. In clinical trials the treatment has been shown to reduce COVID-19 hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment.

The treatment is not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 or who require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19.   

Infusion treatment is offered at more than 200 Tennessee locations.

Martin Chaney, the Chief Medical Officer for Maury Regional, has encouraged the public to get vaccinated. 

“With the delta variant, we are seeing patients whose illness is more severe and advances more rapidly than with previous strains of the virus,” Chaney said recently. “Patients are also younger and largely unvaccinated. Currently, 95% of the COVID patients in our care are unvaccinated.”

According to Chaney, the only way to curb the upward trend of cases is to use the tools currently available, including vaccination, social distancing, masking and monoclonal antibody treatments.

Kerri Bartlett is editor of The Daily Herald. She can be reached at

This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: Maury Regional experiences 80% decrease in antibody doses, following federal clamp on distribution


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