After the FDA authorized the use of two oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19, New York Governor Kathy Hochul approved a condition for using the drugs that have shocked some white people. Because the new oral antiviral treatments are intended to be given to people who have 1) contracted COVID-19, 2) are experiencing mild-to-moderate symptoms, and 3) are considered to be at high risk of developing severe illness.
On Monday, the state’s Health Department sent the “COVID-19 Oral Antiviral Treatment” memo, which stated:
“The FDA authorized the first oral antiviral therapies, Paxlovid from Pfizer and molnupiravir from Merck. To treat patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for progression to severe disease, regardless of vaccination status. The oral antivirals work by interfering with several steps in the reproductive process of SARS-CoV-2 to prevent efficient replication of the virus in host cells. The US Department of Health and Human Services provides oral antivirals at no cost to patients.”
While all of this might seem pretty straightforward, the memo included a risk factor, one that is seen as controversial by some groups of people.
“Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor, as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
The treatment was authorized for all patients who met the following criteria.
Age twelve years and older weighing at least 40 kg (88 pounds) for Paxlovid or eighteen years and older for molnupiravir.
Test positive for SARS-CoV-2 on a nucleic acid amplification test or antigen test; results from an FDA-authorized home-test kit should be validated through video or photo but, if not possible, patient attestation is adequate.
Have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. The patient cannot be hospitalized due to severe or critical COVID-19.
Able to start treatment within five days of symptom onset
Have a medical condition or other factors that increase their risk for severe illness.
The memo was released as New York state set a one-day record for COVID-19 cases because of the raging Omicron variant.
The state had more than 76,000 cases of COVID-19, with as many as 41,000 of those coming from New York City alone.
Data from New York City’s official website shares the vaccination rates of people by race.
Fifty-eight percent of the city’s Black residents have received the shot compared to just 63 percent of whites. Seventy-five percent of the city’s Latino population have gotten the jabs, while 97 percent of Asians have received their free COVID-19 vaccination.
Although the governor-approved state health department memo does not prevent white residents from receiving the oral antiviral treatment, it does prioritize non-white and Latino residents who are inherently at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of the color of their skin.
New York is dealing with so many COVID-19 cases right now that they are forced to triage treatments and resources as hospitals fill up with case after case.