LAKELAND, Fla. - Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis is moving fast to make monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 more available to Floridians in need.
On Saturday, he held a news conference at Lakes Church in Lakeland where he opened up a new treatment site. Hours later he opened up another treatment site in Bradenton at Manatee Memorial Hospital complex. Both sites are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be able to treat about 300 patients per day.
The monoclonal antibody treatment has been approved for emergency use since November. It combats COVID-19 by mimicking a person’s immune system and is meant for anyone 12 years old and up with mild symptoms.
"I can't really get out of bed. I forced myself to come do this to help my symptoms," COVID-19 patient Paige Higgins shared.
Higgins is one of many now taking advantage of the treatment sites that have opened throughout the state.
"The key here, though, is early treatment. If you wait until you're really, really sick and need hospitalization or intensive care, by that point, these antibodies have probably missed their opportunity to do what they need to do," DeSantis said.
The treatment is free to everyone and is funded by the federal government with the state helping to provide the staff so staffing levels at area hospitals aren't impacted.
So far, more than 13 sites have opened in cities throughout the state, including in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach.
In FDA clinical trials, the treatment helped to reduce hospitalizations by 70 percent and shorten the duration of symptoms by four days.
"Some hospitals would only do it maybe once a week. And so clearly this is filling, helping to fill a void. Others do it every day but maybe are limited to how many patients they can see. So we're trying to supplement what had been going on already," DeSantis said.
Those who are positive for the virus and want the monoclonal antibody treatment can show up without a referral or a prescription and can register at: https://www.patientportalfl.com/.