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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Demand has soared in recent weeks for monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 infections.

Why it matters: Monoclonal antibodies — the treatment then-President Trump received when he got COVID — had a slow initial uptake, but are now gaining ground in the pandemic's fourth wave.

Driving the news: A handful of states with low vaccination rates and little willingness to take other safety precautions are leading the charge to make these treatments more available.

  • Texas and Florida have recently opened state-funded infusion sites.

By the numbers: Since mid-July, delivery of the antibody cocktail made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals jumped from about 25,000 doses per week to 125,000 doses per week — with about half shipped to Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama, a company spokeswoman told Kaiser Health News.

Details: The treatments significantly reduce the risk of severe infection in people who have contracted COVID-19. They're most effective within about a week of infection, Brandon Webb, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare told Axios.

  • A real-world analysis published this month in Open Forum Infectious Diseases found high-risk patients treated with monoclonal antibody infusions were 31% less likely to need emergency care or hospital admission.
  • That translates into preventing one hospitalization for every eight patients treated, Webb said. "That's where you get the most bang for your buck," he said.

Yes, but: Monoclonal antibodies are resource-intensive and are no substitute for a vaccine, experts warn.

  • "The vaccines serve as the best and first line of defense. The vaccines are the way to keep from getting infected in the first place and a more effective way of, if infections do happen, being far less likely to end up in a hospital," Dan Roth, chief clinical officer of Trinity Health System told Axios.
  • "Monoclonal antibodies should serve as a second line of defense," he said.

Go deeper

Oct 16, 2021 - Health

Pope Francis calls on companies to release COVID vaccine patents

Pope Francis. Photo: Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pope Francis called on pharmaceutical companies on Saturday to release patents to make COVID-19 vaccines more accessible to the poor, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: There is a stark divide between countries that have access to COVID-19 shots and those that don't, and the gap has widened as some wealthier countries have begun distributing third doses.

Oct 16, 2021 - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

23 hours ago - Health

Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in an "Axios on HBO" interview, said he's reluctant to withhold federal funding from states that won't enforce school mask mandates because he doesn't want to hurt students.

Why it matters: Cardona's comments suggest there are limits to how far the Biden administration will go in pressuring states to adopt universal masking — or vaccine mandates.