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    NY Health Department Requires Healthcare Providers To Discriminate Based On Race When Administering Antiviral Treatment

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    Ailan Evans 

    The New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) is requiring healthcare providers to prioritize non-white patients when administering oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19.

    The department issued a health advisory notice Monday announcing that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved paxlovid and molnupiravir as oral antiviral treatments for the coronavirus, and it provided the eligibility criteria for receiving the drugs.

    The criteria state that the drugs are authorized for patients who meet all of the stated criteria, which include patients who “have a medical condition or other factors that increase their risk for severe COVID-19 illness.”

    The notice ordered providers to adhere to the department’s COVID-19 guidance for prioritizing anti-COVID-19 antivirals as well as monoclonal antibody treatment products. This guidance explicitly lists non-white ethnicity as a risk factor, and it instructs providers to prioritize non-white people when administering treatment.

    “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 guidance reads.

    According to the department’s prioritization guidance, individuals with risk factors receive priority treatment over individuals without risk factors. Individuals without risk factors are at the lowest level of priority for receiving treatment.

    When reached for comment, NYS DOH spokeswoman Erin Silk pointed out that one’s race would not disqualify them from receiving treatment.

    “Systemic poverty, which has clearly proven to be a risk factor in populations in New York State and nationwide, is added to the algorithm of prioritization similar to all other risk factors,” Silk said. “It is merely mentioned as a factor that increases risk.”

    New York’s guidance echoes the risk assessment made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states that  “long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put various groups of people at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19, including many people from certain racial and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities.”

    The CDC initially proposed prioritizing vaccinating essential workers over the elderly in order to be more racially equitable as the elderly are more likely to be white and essential workers are less likely to be white, despite the fact that the elderly face greater risks from COVID-19.

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) unveiled a plan in June to fund research projects into “structural racism” in medicine and health sciences.

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