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Monoclonal antibodies temporarily unavailable in South Carolina

Demand is outweighing supply for the COVID-19 treatment, and a new shipment may not come in for a few weeks.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Doctors say monoclonal antibodies have been an effective way to treat COVID-19 patients. However, with a surge of coronavirus cases and lack of supply, South Carolina doesn’t have anymore to give.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-produced molecules that mimic the immune system’s attack on virus cells, like COVID-19, that can be potentially dangerous.

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Every state receives shipments of the antibodies for healthcare providers to treat COVID-19 patients.

Just last week, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster was promoting monoclonal antibodies in a tweet, saying they're proven to fight serious illness from COVID-19.

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However, now South Carolina is temporarily out of supply.

Melanie Matney with the South Carolina Hospital Association said "there have been orders of approximately 13,000 doses that have been made by providers of antibodies since August 30 that we need to make up in some way.”

Those thousands of orders have now been canceled. Matney explained that the federal government is reworking the supply system and a new, small shipment should come to the Palmetto State in a few weeks.

“We have not really received significant antibodies since late August, so there’s already a backlog of patients and people who need antibodies," Matney said. "Hospitals and providers have been working with their existing supplies, so now there’s starting to be a much greater demand and a much greater need for antibodies.”

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While demand outweighs supply for the therapy, Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto pointed out the importance of getting vaccinated.

“If people are thinking, 'Well, I don't really need to get the vaccine because I can wait, and if I do get COVID I'll get a monoclonal antibody, we don't have any right now,'" Hutto said. "There isn't enough being produced for South Carolina to have what we need.”

Matney filled in Hutto and other leaders of the General Assembly on the supply issue Wednesday morning.

Hutto told News19 that on a previous call with hospital leaders “it was suggested to us that one thing we may want to promote is that people get the monoclonal antibody, [since they] are showing good results."

However, now "flip forward to today; apparently so many people are asking for it, that there's not enough of it being produced, at least on a temporary basis,” said Hutto.

Leaders of the General Assembly meet with the Hospital Association weekly for COVID-19 updates. Hutto said lawmakers will likely return to the State House this fall to allocate more federal funding to hospitals when they need it.

Matney added that South Carolina expects to receive around 4,000 doses of the antibodies from the federal government in a few weeks. Health leaders are working to decide which providers will need the treatments most.

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