MIAMI, Fla. – Florida physicians today called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to stop attacking the federal government for halting the shipment of two monoclonal antibody treatments their makers and experts say are less effective against omicron, which is dominating Florida. The physicians said Gov. DeSantis should instead focus on getting more Floridians vaccinated and encouraging evidence-based safety measures such as wearing masks and social distancing as COVID-19 transmissions stays high and thousands of Floridians remain hospitalized.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis may think being a career politician and a lawyer give him the expertise to prescribe treatments that don’t really work against the dominant variant of COVID-19, but as doctors who save lives from COVID-19 every day, we strongly disagree,” said Dr. Bernard Ashby, a vascular cardiologist in Miami and Florida State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care. “Florida doctors have repeatedly begged Gov. DeSantis to promote evidence-based safety measures that can protect Floridians’ health and safety, over the politics. Instead, Gov. DeSantis is telling Floridians to continue taking risks that increase their risk of getting COVID-19, and then get a treatment that evidence and facts show to be less effective against the current predominant variant of COVID-19.”
Dr. Ashby also spoke to an incident during the Senate confirmation hearing for Gov. DeSantis’ pick for Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, saying, “Just today in the Senate hearing, Dr. Ladapo really resisted answering, at least 5 times, if he believes COVID-19 vaccines are effective, but that fact is clear cut at this time. We’re asking Governor DeSantis and Dr. Ladapo, once again, to stop playing politics and do their jobs.”
A former congressman and lawyer with no medical training, Gov. DeSantis has been an ardent cheerleader for the monoclonal antibody treatments that the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association and the treatments’ makers themselves, Regeneron and Eli Lilly, say are less effective against Florida’s dominant COVID-19 variant. The omicron variant of COVID-19 makes up 99 percent of Florida cases. Gov. DeSantis said he plans to fight the FDA’s decision to stop authorization of the two treatments. Gov. DeSantis’ persistent promotion of Regeneron has raised eyebrows because one of his top political donors has invested millions of dollars in the treatment.
“We know that continuing an anti-infective agent that no longer kills the virus or bacteria can result in worsening of the infection and even death,” said Dr. Fred Southwick, an infectious disease specialist in Gainesville. “Why isn’t DeSantis embracing the many other treatments that work against omicron? From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. DeSantis has taken a politics-first approach, even as millions of Floridians get sick and tens of thousands of people die. Gov. DeSantis fumbled multiple opportunities to protect people and save lives, and his stunt to push a treatment that evidence tells us doesn’t work against the omicron variant of COVID-19 is another example of Gov. DeSantis’ failed anti-health, COVID-19-friendly leadership.”
Research shows that vaccinations helped prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans and keep as many as 10 million people from being sick enough to be hospitalized. Yet Gov. DeSantis has belittled vaccines against COVID-19 and irresponsibly said: “With omicron, you know, the vaccinations are not preventing infection.” Newly-confirmed Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said Florida should scale back on testing even as the state was seeing long lines of people at the time who sought tests because of the rapid spread of the omicron strain. Meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis allowed a stockpile of 1 million tests to expire in a warehouse.
“Medical and health professionals have been clear and consistent about what we need to help contain COVID-19 and prevent it from becoming the recurrent conflagration that we see few months: More high-quality masks that can prevent omicron infections, more widespread vaccinations and boosters that can reduce the risk of getting sick in the first place,” said Dr. Michael Teng, a virologist in Tampa. “Instead of listening to the requests of those on the front lines, Gov. DeSantis and his administration have committed one blunder after another that risks getting more people sick and hospitalized. Countless Floridians and their families have suffered sickness and death for two years because Gov. DeSantis ignored science and evidence that could have saved lives and prevented so much grief and pain.”
About the Committee to Protect Health Care
The Committee to Protect Health Care is a national mobilization of doctors, health care professionals, and advocates who are building a pro-patient health care majority in Congress and in states so that we can live in an America where everyone has the health care they need to thrive. To learn more: www.committeetoprotect.org