If you have COVID and are looking for potentially life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments, you might get sent to the back of the line if you’re white.
According to an FDA fact sheet on the emergency use authorization (EUA) for sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody that is effective at treating the omicron variant, minorities may qualify for it and other treatments more quickly because “race and ethnicity” may be considered to determine whether an individual is considered “high risk.”
The EUA cites old age, obesity, pregnancy, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and other medical conditions that “may place adults and pediatric patients (12 to 17 years of age weighing at least 40 kg) at higher risk for progression to severe COVID-19,” before noting that “Other medical conditions or factors (for example, race or ethnicity) may also place individual patients at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19.”
Some states are now specifically prioritizing non-white patients. New York, for example, is doing so due to “longstanding systemic health and social inequities.”
“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,” a New York Department of Health memo released last week reads.
The state of Utah similarly factors race into how they distribute monoclonal antibodies. According to guidelines issued by the state, “non-white race or Hispanic/Latinx ethnicity” residents receive two additional points when calculating their “COVID-19 risk score.”
Framework issued by Minnesota also advises health care professionals to “consider heightened risk of progression to severe COVID-19 associated with race and ethnicity when determining eligibility” for monoclonal antibody treatment.
“FDA’s acknowledgment means that race and ethnicity alone, apart from other underlying health conditions, may be considered in determining eligibility for mAbs,” the Minnesota guidelines explain. “It is ethically appropriate to consider race and ethnicity in mAb eligibility decisions when data show elevated risk of poor COVID-19 outcomes for Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC populations), and that this risk cannot be adequately addressed by determining eligibility based on underlying health conditions (perhaps due to underdiagnosis of health conditions that elevate risk of poor COVID-19 outcomes in these populations).”
This is hardly the first time the Biden administration has embraced institutionalized racism. Last year, a federal judge ruled that Joe Biden’s $29 billion restaurant relief fund illegally discriminated against white males by prioritizing applications from women and minority-owned businesses. A judge also halted Biden’s COVID relief program for farmers for discriminating against white farmers.