Playing Catchup on COVID
Newsweek|October 08, 2021
Scientists are testing new antiviral drugs, but they won’t be ready in time for the current wave of cases
JENNI FINK

COVID-19 INFECTIONS HAVE SOARED IN RED states, where many governors have fought mask mandates and anti-vaccine sentiment runs high. The latest political battle is being fought over medicines used to treat the thousands of patients who are crowding emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attributes a 60-percent reduction in COVID-19 hospital admissions to the success of monoclonal antibodies, an antiviral treatment for people who are considered high risk for severe illness. People have been flocking to the treatment since states expanded access and significant increases in orders were seen in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and other states with low vaccination rates—only seven states account for 70 percent of orders. To stave off a potential shortage, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put a temporary limit on the amount providers could order.

That prompted DeSantis to rip into President Joe Biden for restricting his state’s access to the drugs. The White House says it is merely concerned with distributing the drugs equitably among the states that need them. Biden accused DeSantis of “playing politics” with public safety.

Vaccines remain the best option, by far, to prevent COVID-19. But it’s too late for the vaccine-hesitant now swarming hospitals. For them, antiviral drugs are their best bet to stop COVID-19 in its tracks, particularly among those patients with severe symptoms. Although millions of Americans are reluctant to get their COVID-19 jabs, they’re apparently eager to try drugs for treatment—even dubious ones like hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug promoted by President Donald Trump, and unproven drugs like ivermectin, a miracle drug for treating parasites in people and animals but not cleared as a treatment for COVID-19.

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