In this June 30, 2021, file photo, Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a press briefing in Augusta. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Maine’s weekly allocation of a drug vital to treating the omicron variant of COVID-19 will nearly double after Gov. Janet Mills asked the federal government for more of the life-saving drug.

Maine will receive 120 doses of the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab, the only available monoclonal antibody known to fight off infections from the omicron variant, this week instead of the previously allocated 66, Mills’ office said Monday.

The increase in doses came after Mills reached out to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients over the weekend. She told him that Maine was not receiving an adequate number of doses for the cases it was seeing, her office said.

It is not yet clear that the increase for this week will translate to future changes in the federal formula for distributing the treatment, Mills’ office said. Maine saw the lowest rate of sotrovimab doses to hospitalizations in the United States last week, according to data from the federal government and the New York Times.

“The Administration is pleased that the Federal government has made this change at a time when its own experts, including Dr. Fauci, are saying that case counts should become less of a focus,” Mills press secretary Lindsay Crete said.

A spokesperson for Northern Light Health, which has 10 hospitals across the state, confirmed that the hospital system had seen fewer monoclonal antibody doses in recent weeks due to the state’s backlog, with the supply dropping as omicron had become the dominant variant.

Northern Light had been administering more than 250 sotrovimab doses a week before the new variant, more than double the state’s allotment this week after Mills’ intervention, the spokesperson, Suzanne Spruce, said.

“Northern Light Health will use the limited supply being available to us to ensure treatment for our patients who are at highest risk,” she said.

Federal data show that Maine’s allotment of sotrovimab fell from the 414 doses it received on Dec. 17 to 72 last week.

Maine has recently had the lowest rate in the nation of new daily coronavirus cases, but Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said last Wednesday that the state’s recent case numbers don’t include a backlog of more than 46,000 positive results the state agency still needed to process.

The announcement came as the White House looked poised to halt the distribution of two other monoclonal antibodies approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because they are not effective against the dominant omicron variant.

About 87 percent of the monoclonal antibodies Maine received last week were antibodies besides sotrovimab, compared with 77 percent for the rest of the country. The Maine CDC recommended that providers not use those treatments more than two weeks ago.

Mills’ call over the weekend was not the first time state officials had brought up concerns about low monoclonal antibody supplies with their federal counterparts.

State health officials had previously told the feds that Maine was seeing a backlog of cases that could lead to a lower distribution of monoclonal antibodies based on the federal formula for distributing the treatments, which takes into account COVID cases and hospitalizations.

Maine officials also questioned the distribution formula’s equity.