Was Florida’s decision to prioritize antibody treatments the right call?

ORLANDO, Fla. — In mid-August Florida reached its peak in new COVID cases.

About a month later the state hit its peak in hospitalizations and deaths.

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With Florida in the grip of one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country, the state began setting up monoclonal antibody sites to treat those who were infected.

At its 25 sites, Florida treated more than 135,000 people with the antibodies. About 55% of those people were unvaccinated.

“What you see there is what I call reactive medicine,” said Dr. Isaiah Cochran, an Orlando physician.

Read: 9 things to know about COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments

Monoclonal antibodies, which are produced in the lab, essentially jumpstart the body’s immune response to COVID-19.

They have proven to be effective in treating people once they are showing symptoms of the virus. But by the time a person is showing symptoms, he or she is already contagious and may have spread the virus to those around them.

“The antibodies help, but you are able to infect others and may not know it by the time you start to show symptoms,” Cochran said.

Florida received its initial batch of antibodies from the federal government, which purchased hundreds of thousands of doses.

The feds also purchased doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which was also sent to Florida.

Although the federal government purchased both, it was all purchased using taxpayer dollars.

The vaccines cost between $20 and $40 a dose, but the cost of an antibody treatment is around $1,200.

Read: Coronavirus: Regeneron says antibody cocktail reduced infection risk by nearly 82% over 8 months

“I feel like it really did help with my symptoms,” Emily Orey, a Seminole County woman.

Orey was already vaccinated against COVID-19 when her son became ill.

Shortly thereafter, she, too, started showing symptoms.

Read: Should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Her doctor recommended that she receive an antibody treatment, which she did at a state-run site.

“I don’t know if it was the vaccine or the antibodies, but I definitely felt better,” Orey said.

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