On Thursday, Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) cleared up some of the confusion caused by Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey’s reported quote one day earlier that Tennesseans who are vaccinated will no longer be able to receive monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19.
Johnson’s comments came on the Thursday morning edition of The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
“This all started with just another blatant overreach by the federal government through President Biden when he made his declaration, as you are aware that they were going to decide which states received monoclonal antibody treatments or how much of that treatment they would receive for patients in various states,” Johnson told Leahy.
“I spoke with the administration yesterday, and I feel better. When I saw the headline, I was alarmed, just as you were, and many others were as well,” Johnson said.
“Number one, any provider who wants to prescribe monoclonal antibody treatment to someone regardless of age who has been vaccinated or not can do so and that patient will receive it,” Johnson continued. (emphasis added)
“The term guidance, I think, is a better description for those who are 65 and older. The guidance does not apply to those with comorbidities. The guidance does not apply. But if you’re 35 and healthy and you test positive and again, it’s your provider, it’s your health care provider’s decision,” he noted.
“But they can make a decision whether or not they think that you should get the monoclonal antibody treatment. Again, its guidance, at the end of the day for healthcare providers that can make the decision they feel is best for their patients in the state of Tennessee,” Johnson said.
On Wednesday, The Tennessee Star reported, “Tennessee Department of Health officials said this week that only the unvaccinated should take monoclonal antibody treatments.”:
The Epoch Times reported Tuesday that Tennessee health officials recommend that only the unvaccinated get monoclonal antibody treatments because of federal government rationing.
“Because vaccinated people are less likely to require hospitalization after getting COVID-19, healthcare providers should consider prioritizing unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people who are at high risk of getting severe cases of the disease, Meredith Chuk, a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official, told state officials in a call last week. Another population that should be prioritized over individuals predicted to have an “adequate immune response” is those who are vaccinated but have weak immune systems,” The Epoch Times reported.
“Additionally, providers should make sure to prioritize using monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 over using them on people who have been exposed to the disease but who have not yet tested positive for it.”
The Epoch Times article quoted TDOH Commissioner Lisa Piercey regarding the doses administered under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
“The EUA is only for people with these conditions, and that’s been the same since day one,” Tennessee Health Commissioner Piercey reportedly said.
“The new thing is the NIH criteria of, well, even if you have those conditions, but you’re vaccinated, you don’t get it now.” (emphasis added)
You can read the full transcript of Michael Patrick Leahy’s interview on Thursday with State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson here:
Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmaker line to kind of help us sort this whole thing out by our very good friend, Tennessee State Senator majority leader from Franklin, Jack Johnson. Good morning, Senator Johnson.
Johnson: Good morning, Michael. Good to be back with you.
Leahy: Well, can you help me un-sort this thing? (Laughter)
Johnson: I will do my best and let me preface it by saying that discussions are ongoing. Michael, this all started with just another blatant overreach by the federal government through President Biden when he made his declaration, as you are aware that they were going to decide which states received monoclonal antibody treatments or how much of that treatment they would receive for patients in various states.
And that’s problematic in its own right because the federal government should not be involved in that. It should be a private-sector venture between hospitals, health care providers, and whoever manufactures the treatment, whether it’s monoclonal antibodies or any other treatment.
We don’t need the federal government stepping in and deciding that this state will get some in this state won’t. So that’s what kind of started the conversation.
I spoke with the administration yesterday, and I feel better. When I saw the headline, I was alarmed, just as you were, and many others were as well. Number one, any provider who wants to prescribe monoclonal antibody treatment to someone regardless of age who has been vaccinated or not can do so and that patient will receive it.
The term guidance, I think, is a better description for those who are 65 and older. The guidance does not apply to those with comorbidities. The guidance does not apply. But if you’re 35 and healthy and you test positive and again, it’s your provider, it’s your health care provider’s decision.
But they can make a decision whether or not they think that you should get the monoclonal antibody treatment. Again, its guidance, at the end of the day for healthcare providers that can make the decision they feel is best for their patients in the state of Tennessee.
Leahy: Well, Jack, that is so very encouraging. And it sounds like the commissioner of the Department of Health or Lisa Piercy was quoted yesterday as saying definitively, we got the exact quote here.
She said, “Definitively if you’ve been vaccinated, you won’t get the treatment.” That was a quote from The Epoch Times and The Tennesseean.
I guess what you’re saying is you’ve talked to sources in the administration that basically are saying that quote was either incorrect or mistaken. Do I have that right?
Jackson: You do. You have that correct. And I was speaking directly with someone in the governor’s office who, by the way, had been fielding other calls as well regarding this, and that’s what I was told.
And ultimately, Michael, taking this back to a higher level of a 30,000 level, one of the frustrating things I think for many people out there throughout this COVID pandemic has been politicians if you will interjecting themselves into healthcare delivery.
And that’s not a good thing. Don’t take healthcare from Joe Biden or Jack Johnson or Bill Lee. None of us are medical providers.
Dr. Piercy is a medical doctor. Anyone who is diagnosed with COVID, concerned about COVID, whether it’s regarding vaccination treatment, prophylactic treatments, therapeutic treatments, or whatever, that needs to be a conversation between you and your provider.
I’ve received calls from providers who said that they feel threatened or coerced by some agency, the federal government, or otherwise regarding how they treat their patients.
If you are one of those health care providers, you need to reach out to a policymaker at the state or federal level and explain that because we don’t need that happening. The healthcare decisions need to be between you and your trusted health care provider, and yourself.
Leahy: That, Jack, makes perfect sense. But I gather, though, from your statement, you spoke with somebody in the governor’s office, but not the Tennessee Department of Health. Do I have that right?
Jackson: That is correct. As you know, the commissioner of the Department of Health serves at the pleasure of the governor’s office. And I felt that this was serious enough that I should take it directly to the governor’s office.
Jackson: Yes. And again, the keyword there is guidance.
Leahy: Do you think the person in the governor’s office perhaps had communication with the Commissioner of the Department of Health and said your reported statement that ‘If you’re vaccinated, you don’t get it. (i.e. the monoclonal antibody treatment now).’ Is the governor’s office having that communication with the Tennessee Department of Health?
Jackson: I would assume so. And I certainly encouraged that. And I want to be very cautious about speaking about what’s going on in the governor’s office.
What I can report to you is that my contact in the governor’s office, who is a trusted liaison with the governor’s office and who I discussed this matter with, said that this is guidance.
And at the end of the day, a healthcare provider can do what they believe is in the best interest of their patient and that it was strictly guidance. And that made me feel better about the whole situation.
Jackson: And if there’s a healthcare provider out there hearing the sound of our voices who believe otherwise or feels like they’re being prohibited from prescribing a treatment to a patient that they believe is in that patient’s best interest, regardless of their vaccination status, I encourage them to call my office.
Leahy: Yes. That’s a very good idea because my guess is Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson is there is still room for confusion out there. (Chuckles) I know this will shock you in terms of our delivery of healthcare for COVID-19.
But it does sound like unless we get a definitive statement also from the Commissioner of Health Lisa Piercy that providers can see that follow this information from the governor’s office then I think you’ll have some conflicting interpretations of it.
It looks like Vanderbilt is saying that we’re going to follow what the Department of Health has said previously. But Saint Thomas and others are saying, yeah, we will give it on a patient-by-patient basis.
Jackson: Right. And the latter is what I believe to be the policy. But it is important that that communication and you hit the nail on the head, Michael. There’s a tremendous amount of confusion out there and conflicting information.
Some of it is from the federal government in terms of what you can do or what you can’t do. Guidance versus policy and those types of things. You and I agree that the less government intervention into the healthcare delivery process, the better.
Leahy: Senator Jackson, you’ve made me feel better because I’m at that advanced stage. I’m over 65. And if I test positive, I’m going to write to my healthcare provider, and I’m saying I want those monoclonal antibodies.
And what you’re saying is they can make that choice. And Joe Biden doesn’t make that choice. I think I’ve got that right.
Jackson: That is exactly right. That’s exactly right. Go to your healthcare provider. Have that conversation with them about the best treatment for you, the best course of treatment for you, and follow your doctor’s advice.
Leahy: Thanks so much for clarifying that with us. We really appreciate it.
Listen to the second hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Sen. Jack Johnson” by Senator Jack Johnson.