National shortage forces SCDHEC to begin rationing COVID antibody treatment

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina health officials said a national shortage has forced them to begin rationing doses of monoclonal antibodies -- a treatment used to help people fight off COVID-19.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said it has been informed by the federal government about a national shortage of the antibodies. As a result, the state will only get about 4,460 doses this week, instead of the 13,000 ordered by providers in the state.

The therapeutic treatment has helped thousands of people fight the virus and avoid serious symptoms, hospitalization and death.

Tina Ferrel is grateful she’s never had COVID-19, but she said if she ever did, she would be willing to take monoclonal antibodies to keep serious symptoms at bay.

“I haven’t had no problems. I been exposed several times, but I never did get it, thank God,” she said “If I needed to, yes, because I don’t want to be in no hospital.”

Channel 9 checked York, Chester, Chesterfield and Lancaster counties, and learned MUSC Health Lancaster is one of the only health care providers in the area offering the antibody treatment.

On Friday, health officials in North and South Carolina said demand has created a shortage.

The antibodies once went straight to providers, but now, state health officials will allocate the antibodies to treatment centers. SCDHEC said they will start to divide the supply it up based on utilization rates and access in the coming days.

Health officials told Channel 9 that the shortage is a big deal because monoclonal antibodies have helped ward off more serious symptoms in already infected patients.

Full statement from SCDHEC:

“The federal government has informed each state that there is a national shortage of monoclonal antibodies. As a result, South Carolina will only receive 4,460 doses for this week’s allocation to be distributed next week. In contrast, facilities across the state already have orders for 13,000 doses pending.

“Due to the shortage, DHEC is determining the allocations for monoclonal antibody treatment sites in the state based on the amount the state will receive, sites’ utilization rates, and access. We are quickly working on the details with the goal of accommodating as many South Carolinians as we can with this successful treatment.

“It is important to remember that monoclonal antibody treatment is not a substitute for COVID-19 vaccination. Those looking to protect themselves against COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccines are safe, effective, and available for free at thousands of locations across the state.”

Channel 9 reached out to MUSC Health Lancaster hoping to find out how this shortage would impact the hospital. We have not heard back at this point.

(WATCH BELOW: Monoclonal antibody treatment: What you need to know)

South Carolina reaches 50% vaccination rate as cases dip

Half of all South Carolinians eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are now fully vaccinated, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Thursday.

The benchmark puts the state closer to a 70 to 80% vaccination goal, health officials said in a statement.

With more than 2.1 million residents completely vaccinated, South Carolina still falls behind most of the nation in vaccine uptake. Across the country, about 63% of the eligible population — people 12 years or older — have completed their vaccination.

“The mission is not over because the pandemic is not over,” said DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer in a statement. “We need more South Carolinians to step up and get vaccinated so we can stamp COVID out once and for all.”

The vaccine milestone comes as the recent spike in cases driven by the delta variant has begun to decline. As of Tuesday, the seven-day moving average for cases sat at 4,500, down from a high of about 5,500 in early September that neared the record case numbers set in January before the vaccine was readily available.

On Thursday, the health department recorded another 4,306 cases and 49 deaths, bringing the total virus death toll to more than 10,000.

But health officials have warned residents not to let their guard down as cases may rise yet again if people don’t wear masks and get vaccinated.

Cases still being counted from Labor Day weekend gatherings could also drive numbers up, Assistant State Epidemiologist Dr. Jane Kelly told reporters Wednesday.

Some cities and counties have re-issued mask mandates in recent weeks to address the surge of the virus.

Following a mask order from the city of Columbia that encompasses “crowded outdoor spaces,” the University of South Carolina will now require masks at football games, according to an email sent out by the school.

That means fans at the school’s stadium, which seats about 80,000 people, will have to keep their masks on for the next two home games before the 30-day mandate ends.

A smaller number of local governments in the state have established vaccine requirements for their employees. In North Charleston, 14 police officers and firefighters sued this week after Mayor Keith Summey issued an executive order compelling city workers to get their shots, news outlets reported.

*The Associated Press contributed to this article*

(WATCH BELOW: South Carolina leaders say they’re prepared to fight President Biden’s vaccine mandate)