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Monoclonal antibody clinic in Jacksonville 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, the Jacksonville clinic wants to be sure it has enough treatments on hand before resuming appointments.

The company running the site says the federal government paused shipments on most antibody treatments, citing data showing they're unlikely to combat the omicron variant.

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 Food and Drug Administration paused shipments on most antibody treatments this past 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 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. Duval's COVID vaccination rate still lags the rest of the state and country.

New vaccinations in Duval rose slightly last week, according to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health. The county's 61% vaccination rate falls 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 tripled week over week, ahead of Florida reaching its all-time daily high on Christmas. 

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 public schools used to lift its mask mandate this year.

The school 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 a fraction of the more than 8,000 cases a week the county saw in the middle of the delta spike this summer. 

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

Copyright 2021 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Claire Heddles
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.