Vaccine-resistant Americans are turning to the treatment with a zeal that has, at times, mystified their doctors, chasing down lengthy infusions after rejecting vaccines that cost one-hundredth as much. Orders have exploded so quickly this summer — to 168,000 doses per week in late August, up from 27,000 in July — that the Biden administration warned states this week of a dwindling national supply.
The federal government, which was already covering the cost of the treatment — currently about $2,100 per dose — has now taken over its distribution as well. For the coming weeks, the government has told states to expect scaled-back shipments because of the looming shortages.
With seven Southern states accounting for 70 percent of orders, the new process has unsettled some of their governors, who have made the antibody treatment central to their strategy for enduring a catastrophic wave of the Delta variant.
More supplies are on the way. The federal government bought 1.8 million more doses this week, expected to arrive in the fall and winter. But for now, some hospitals are uncertain of supplies, state health officials said, even as patients keep searching for doses.
“We have providers struggling to get the necessary product,” Kody Kinsley, who leads operations for North Carolina’s Covid-19 response, said in an interview. “I think what has happened is a classic logistics issue, where all of a sudden there’s much more demand.”
Amid a din of antivaccine falsehoods, monoclonal antibodies have become the rare coronavirus medicine to achieve near-universal acceptance. Championed by mainstream doctors and conservative radio hosts alike, the infusions have kept the country’s death toll — 2,000 per day and climbing — from soaring even higher.
And after months of work by President Biden and Southern governors to promote the treatments, they have won the affection of vaccine refusers who said that the terrors and uncertainties of actually getting Covid had made them desperate for an antidote.
“The people you love, you trust, nobody said anything negative about it,” Mr. Jones said of the antibody treatment. “And I’ve heard nothing but negative things about the side effects of the vaccine and how quickly it was developed.”