AUSTIN, Texas — On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Texas is requesting more resources for federally supported COVID-19 testing locations and medical personnel, as well as more federal allocations of monoclonal antibodies.
"Detecting COVID-19 and preventing COVID-related hospitalizations are critical to our fight against this virus," said Gov. Abbott. "While the Biden administration has cut supplies of monoclonal antibody treatments and testing kits when they are needed most, the State of Texas is urging the federal government to step up in this fight and provide the resources necessary to help protect Texans. Testing sites, additional medical staff, and continued shipments of therapeutics from the federal government will help us continue to save lives and mitigate the spread of COVID-19."
In his statement, Abbott is referring to the Texas Health and Human Services department taking over the distribution of monoclonal treatments. In short, seven states with low vaccination rates, including Texas, were using 70% of the nation's supply. Over shortage concerns, the federal government took over distributions in September and ordered 1.4 million additional doses.
Requests have been made for the following Texas counties based on local metrics: Bexar, Cameron, Dallas, Harris, Hidalgo and Tarrant.
The Department of State Health and Human Services also requested more allocations of sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody therapeutic that is effective in fighting the omicron variant. The agency also requested a continued supply of Regeneron and bamlanivimab, as well as three teams of medical personnel to provide additional support to hospitals in urban areas of the state that do no have DSHS-contracted staff.
Friday's news comes after officials announced on Monday that Texas infusion centers offering monoclonal antibody treatments to COVID-19 omicron patients across the state have exhausted their supply and will not be able to offer it again until January.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), regional infusion centers in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, San Antonio and The Woodlands do not have supply of sotrovimab, the monoclonal antibody effective against the COVID-19 omicron variant. The centers get the treatment from the federal government, which is facing a national shortage as cases surge.
They will not be able to offer it until federal authorities ship additional courses of sotrovimab to Texas in January.
Those who had appointments scheduled this week will be notified directly and advised further, DSHS said.
Other monoclonal antibody treatments, such as the one made by Regeneron, are not effective against the omicron variant, which now accounts for more than 90% of new cases in Texas. Infusion centers will continue to offer those antibodies as prescribed by health care providers for people diagnosed with non-omicron cases of COVID-19.
The DSHS said two new oral antiviral drugs authorized last week by the FDA – Pfizer’s paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir – will be available soon but will have a limited initial supply.
Those with COVID-19 infections at a high risk of hospitalization and death should contact their health care provider to discuss treatment options.
The DSHS is asking all Texans to protect themselves from a severe COVID-19 case by getting vaccinated as soon as possible, getting a booster as soon as eligible and continuing to take precautions to prevent being exposed to the virus and spreading it to others.
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