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Monoclonal antibody clinic temporarily shuts down appointments

A health worker tests a person for COVID-19.
University of Florida Health
A health worker tests a person for COVID-19.

With COVID cases soaring in Duval County and elsewhere, appointments at Jacksonville's monoclonal antibody treatment site were unavailable Monday.

A spokesman for CDR Health, the company Florida pays to run the clinic, said two days worth of appointments will open online Tuesday morning. There are between 40 and 90 appointments available per day.

"We want to make sure we have product in hand before scheduling folks," spokesman Steve Vancore said in an email Monday.

The clinic has stopped taking walk-ins and is now requiring a positive test result to get the treatment. Before last week, suspected exposure was enough to qualify.

According to CDR Health, there are fewer appointments, in part, because the FDA paused shipments on most antibody treatments last week. Federal agencies cited data showing they're unlikely to combat the omicron variant.

The federal government is set to increase its supply next month of the antibody sotrovimab, citing data showing it is effective against omicron.

In the meantime, the Jacksonville clinic is distributing only the Eli Lilly and Co. drug bamlanivimab. The FDA did not release data about the effectiveness of bamlanivimab use alone in its updated report last week.

"We're planning to use whatever they send," Vanore said.

As case counts surge, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry have continued promoting monoclonal antibodies. But Duval's COVID vaccination rate — the best way to keep from getting sick in the first place — still lags the rest of the state and country.

New vaccinations in Duval rose just slightly last week, according to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health. The county's 61% vaccination rate falls well below the statewide rate of 71%, and 77% of people 5 and older have been vaccinated nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID cases in Duval County also tripled week over week, ahead of Florida reaching its all-time daily high on Christmas Day. 

Florida reported 32,850 new COVID cases on Christmas, after reaching 31,758 new cases the day before. Duval recorded 180 COVID cases per 100,000 people last week, according to the latest state data, more than three times the limit Duval Schools used to lift its mask mandate earlier this year.

The district did not reply to a request for comment about whether it will reinstate a facial covering requirement in the upcoming semester.

Last week’s 1,800 new COVID cases in Duval is still just a fraction of the more than 8,000 cases a week the county saw in the middle of the Delta spike this past summer. 

After closing for the holiday, the city's public COVID-19 testing sites reopened Monday, with long lines expected.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.