NY Health Department Lists Being “Non-White” as Qualification for Oral Antiviral Treatments Based on “Social Inequities”

Non-White
A qualifying factor as part of the criteria for oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 states that being “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.” File photo: Prostock-studio, Shutter Stock, licensed.

NEW YORK, NY – According to a document dated December 27, 2021 currently hosted on the Medical Society of the State of New York’s website, the New York State Department of Health lists being “non-white” as part of the criteria for qualifying for oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19.

The document, which both announces that the NY Health Department has authorized the use of COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments and that those oral/pill treatments – currently consisting of Paxlovid and Molnupiravir – are experiencing a “severe shortage,” thus necessitating strict guidelines to establish who qualifies to receive them.

Among the qualifications to receive oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 are, according to the NY Health Department document:

  • Age 12 years and older weighing at least 40 kg (88 pounds) for Paxlovid, or 18 years and older for Molnupiravir
  • Test positive for SARS-CoV-2 on a nucleic acid amplification test or antigen test
  • Have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms (patient cannot be hospitalized with severe or critical symptoms)
  • Able to start treatment within 5 days of symptom onset
  • Have a medical condition or other factors that increase their risk for severe illness.


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The last qualifying factor is of note, as it possesses a sub-section that states that being “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.”

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This document was modified to best fit this screen. You can view the original document via http://www.mssnyenews.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/122821_Notification_107774.pdf

The NY Health Department listing being “non-White” as a risk/qualifying factor for COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment has generated some confusion, with some insinuating that this policy may represent discrimination against White people when it comes to receiving medical treatment.

The COVID-19 oral treatment document appears to have taken their qualification policy from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose website expands upon the verbiage concerning “social inequities” against minorities that the NY Health Department used.

“Health equity is still not a reality as COVID-19 has unequally affected many racial and ethnic minority groups, putting them more at risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19,” the CDC website says. “Some of the many inequities in the social determinants of health that put racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19 include discrimination; barriers to accessing health care; working in occupations that increase exposure to COVID-19; education, income, and wealth gaps; and crowded housing conditions.”

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