Tennessee restricting monoclonal antibody treatment to the unvaccinated

Tennessee is restricting the use of monoclonal antibody treatments to people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a statement to The Hill, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health explained that the state is following guidelines from the National Institutes of Health for distributing monoclonal antibodies amid a nationwide shortage.

“Our recommendation to monoclonal antibody providers or individual facilities across the state is if they need to prioritize distribution of the treatment, the NIH guidelines are the recommended approach for that prioritization, including prioritizing those who are most likely to be hospitalized,” the statement said.

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Monoclonal antibodies are meant to help the body’s immune system respond to COVID-19. 

The NIH updated its guidelines on Sept. 3 to advise prioritizing monoclonal antibodies for those who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and are at high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19. NIH also advised prioritizing vaccinated individuals who are “not expected to amount an adequate immune response,” such as immunocompromised individuals.

Demand for monoclonal antibodies has soared in recent months amid the surge of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is disproportionately impacting states with lower vaccinated rates.

Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana have all accounted for 70 percent of the country’s supply of monoclonal antibodies, NBC News reported. All but Florida have vaccination rates that are below the national average.