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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Monoclonal antibodies

Why only believe in the expensive option? September 22, 2021 at 3:40 a.m.

"One can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

--Lewis Carroll,

Through the Looking Glass

Anti-vaccine hesitancy still baffles some of us. And every day we get more baffled. Today we are over-baffled. Bafflered. Bafflested.

Forget the bleach and horse medicines for a bit. If you can. For it is hard not to remember that there are those who would go to the tractor supply store to get protected against covid-19 when every doctor on the planet says it'd be much more effective, and far less apt to kill you, if you just took the vaccine that was made for this damnable bug.

Some won't trust their family doctors to give it to them straight, but will trust some stranger on the Internet who's pointing them to equine therapeutics. Oy vey.

And things get curiouser and curiouser, to quote Miss Alice in her Wonderland.

There are a couple-three covid-19 vaccines available to the human race in general and Americans in particular--free of charge to the American patient. Those shots have been proven effective in keeping folks out of the hospital and, days later, out of the morgue.

And instead of taking this shot, which costs the government about $20 for each jab, many of these people have been insisting on "monoclonal antibody treatments," an experimental method to get antibodies into the human system. Monoclonal antibody treatments come at a price of a couple thousand dollars per dose--to the federal government.

Yes, the federal government--that's you, us, and all taxpayers--foots this bill. There are people out there who won't take the $20 shot, but don't mind taking an experimental treatment that costs a hundred times more. In fact, they insist on it.

From the wire story: "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 shortage."

Which radio talk-show host pulled off this trick? (This week, reports say that Alabama recorded more deaths in that state in 2020 than births. First time in recorded history. So much for all this being a media hoax.)

The monoclonal treatment gets the nod from the medical community because it works. But so does the vaccine. And the vaccine is so much less expensive. And more effective. The (government supplied) monoclonal treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly have been shown to "significantly" reduce symptoms and reduce hospitalizations by 70 percent. But the Moderna vaccine's effectiveness against hospitalization is 93 percent. And the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 88 percent. For $20.

Perhaps the government should charge $800 for the shots. Maybe more people will believe in them.

We hasten to repeat that all these "free" shots and treatments aren't free at all, and that the bio companies that make them charge the federal government for their product. Whether paying $20 or $2,100, taxpayers are footing the bill.

So those who avoid the vaccine but sign up for the monoclonal treatments are costing the rest of us plenty. And no telling how many have had more than one treatment, or will have. Is that fair? Is that equitable?

Maybe the government should offer the $2K treatment, cost free, only to those who've been vaccinated. Then charge the unvaccinated a 20 percent co-pay, or $400. It seems like that would substantially change people's behavior, and eliminate the shortages that experts see down the road.

Before we get the letters, no, this wouldn't prevent the unvaccinated from getting monoclonal treatments--but they'd be expected to pay something for it. Instead of letting the rest of us cover their ignorance.

An economic incentive might work better than a government mandate for federal workers and/or health workers. And nobody's freedom would be undermined, either. You'd still be able to stay at home and take your chances. You just couldn't charge the most expensive item on the menu to the collective.

This shouldn't be this difficult.

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