If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were a responsible leader dedicated to the well-being of his constituents, he would have made it clear that the monoclonal antibody Regeneron administered at his five new treatment sites is virtually useless in the current COVID-19 rise.
But DeSantis is DeSantis and therefore his own top priority. He's happy to offer false hope in the midst of a pandemic - as his state breaks infection records week after week - if he thinks it's to his political advantage.
Last month, DeSantis held a press conference outside Ocala Medical Center with a sign that read "Early treatment saves lives" and proclaimed monoclonal antibodies in response to the COVID crisis. His general surgeon, Joe Ladapo, described vaccines, masks and tests as a "trifecta" of "madness".
Omicron had already begun to spread in Florida and elsewhere so quickly that it was soon responsible for the overwhelming majority of new cases. The federal government stopped distributing two of the three major monoclonal antibody therapies - Regeneron and bamlanivimab - on the grounds that they were ineffective against the new variants. The third treatment, sotrovimab, is still so deficient that it is reserved only for the most vulnerable people.
DeSantis accused the Biden administration of falling victim to "hysteria". Lapado published a letter he wrote to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, in which he said, "The federal government is actively preventing the effective distribution of antibody treatments in the United States." Keep in mind that it was because the treatments themselves are ineffective.
On January 3, DeSantis tweeted a video of himself standing with the sign "Early treatment saves lives" outside at Broward Health.
"Instead of strangling monoclonal antibodies, the federal government must release its stocks to states that want them and allow states to purchase these drugs directly," he said.
On January 4, he posted a video of himself with the traveled sign in Jacksonville.
"Governor DeSantis is in Jacksonville ready to open a monoclonal antibody treatment site IF the federal government would provide the supply that Florida needs," he said.
On January 5, he insisted: "With Omicron, there is not enough evidence to say that Regeneron and bamlanivimab work. There is not enough evidence to say whether it will be as effective or more against Delta, we just know does not."
“That equates to giving them a placebo.”
- Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo
In fact, there was already considerable evidence to the contrary. Prominent medical experts reached agreement, as Regeneron and bamlanivimab do does not work against Omicron.
"That's the equivalent of giving them a placebo," Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of Infectious Disease at the University of Alabama Medicine, to Daily Beast. "We just assume there will be no benefit from using them."
But on January 7, the Biden administration bowed. DeSantis reported that Florida had secured 15,000 doses of Regeneron. He announced that they would be distributed in five new locations.
"Free monoclonal antibody treatment," read signs outside.
After all the reports, there was a large turnout. A registered nurse at the Lake Worth site told a television reporter, "We can slow the transmission of the virus from entering the cells if you do it sooner."
If it was the Delta variant, of course. But with Omicron, this was just a waste of a nurse when there is a critical shortage of them in hospitals across the country. This raises the issue of wasting precious resources, while national healthcare is overexploited and exhausted.
"For me, it's diversion at best," Marrazzo said.
Another important question is whether the people who arrive have false hopes of promoting the illusion that DeSantis is addressing the pandemic in a way that is acceptable to his anti-wax anti-mask base.
DeSantis himself may be hoping that the monoclonal hoax will help people forget that he allowed a million home sets to expire while people stood in line for hours to be tested. He initially denied that such a warehouse existed and was joined by Ladapo in mockery of people shouting for testing.
When the truth came out, DeSantis and Ladapo suddenly started talking about getting the tests for people in nursing homes. And of course, he continued his mantra of monoclonal, monoclonal, monoclonal.
One researcher, Tom Hladish of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, suggested to The Daily Beast that dependence on monoclonal antibodies would be a bad public health policy even if they opposed Omicron.
One shortcoming is what he called "a volume problem."
"It's not like you can get a stab in the shoulder and five minutes later they will do the next one," he said.
Another problem is that monoclonal antibodies do significantly less than vaccines to reduce spread.
"When people receive monoclonal antibodies, they are already symptomatic," he noted. "And so they've already done most of their transmission."
He said the resulting reduction in the spread of the virus is only linear, while that with vaccines is exponential.
"The vast majority of epidemiologists feel that the best intervention we have right now is vaccines," he said. "And that's because vaccines, even against Omicron ... they still probably reduce transmission somewhat. They make it somewhat less likely that you will be infected. You tend to get infected in a shorter period of time. And then you still see a greater than linear benefit when vaccinating more and more people. "
A leader that the people of Florida deserve would tell anyone who shows up at the five new places that they should get vaccinated. And, as even former President Trump says, to be sure of getting the booster.
DeSantis still will not say whether he got the booster or not. But the biggest shame is his inability to tell the truth about the five new placebo centers.