It’s not just New York prioritizing non-white residents for COVID-19 treatments, Utah and Minnesota are also doing it.
As The Washington Free Beacon reported, the scheme didn’t start at state-level health departments, it began with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“In New York, racial minorities are automatically eligible for scarce COVID-19 therapeutics, regardless of age or underlying conditions. In Utah, ‘Latinx ethnicity’ counts for more points than ‘congestive heart failure’ in a patient’s ‘COVID-19 risk score’—the state’s framework for allocating monoclonal antibodies. And in Minnesota, health officials have devised their own ‘ethical framework’ that prioritizes black 18-year-olds over white 64-year-olds—even though the latter are at much higher risk of severe disease,” the Free Beacon reported.
The racial discrimination stems from the FDA’s guidance when authorizing monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals for emergency use. The FDA only authorized these treatments for “high risk” patients, and included race as a factor determining someone to be “high risk.” As the Free Beacon noted:
The FDA “fact sheet” for Sotrovimab, the only monoclonal antibody effective against the Omicron variant, states that “race or ethnicity” can “place individual patients at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19.” The fact sheet for Paxlovid, Pfizer’s new antiviral pill, uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of “high risk,” which states that “systemic health and social inequities” have put minorities “at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.”
Even though the guidance is nonbinding, several states have used them to justify extremely harmful race-based triage, to the detriment of those at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
Minnesota, for example, explicitly cites the FDA as the reason it is discriminating against higher-risk white people in favor of lower-risk minorities.
“The FDA has acknowledged that in addition to certain underlying health conditions, race and ethnicity ‘may also place individual patients at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19,’” Minnesota’s racial triage plan states. “FDA’s acknowledgment means that race and ethnicity alone, apart from other underlying health conditions, may be considered in determining eligibility for [monoclonal antibodies].”
Utah justifies the race-based triage similarly, stating that the FDA “specifically states that race and ethnicity may be considered when identifying patients most likely to benefit from this lifesaving treatment.”
Further, as The Daily Wire reported, New York’s triage stated that “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 FDA says race may be considered, but it never said to make race the priority when determining who should get treatment.
Unsurprisingly, even though men are 60% more likely to die from COVID-19 than women – according to research from the Brookings Institution – sex is not included as a risk factor in the FDA guidance, though Utah does give men an additional point.
As the Free Beacon noted, the triage in Minnesota and Utah gives members of the BIPOC community two points when determining risk, whereas comorbidities like “hypertension in a patient 55 years and older” is only worth one point. In Utah, “congestive heart failure” and “shortness of breath” only count for one point, while race counts for two.