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Looking for COVID-19 antiviral pills in New York? Shortages, state guidelines reignite debate over who gets access

Supply shortages of COVID-19 antiviral pills have reignited the debate in New York over who should be prioritized in treatment once the drugs become available.

State policy distributed the initial courses of antibody treatment by region based on population, but most doses went to cities and surrounding suburbs, according to The Evening Tribune. This left many rural communities with gaps in access.


The federal government has purchased 20 million Pfizer pill treatment courses, which has proven to be the most effective of the new antiviral treatments against COVID-19. Last week, New York state Governor Kathy Hochul said she was “encouraged by the federal government’s actions to ramp up access to promising antiviral treatments.”

On December 27, 2021, the state Department of Health advised medical providers to consider various medical conditions and risk factors when prescribing antiviral pills.

“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 memo noted.


A Cornell University law professor, William Jacobson, challenged New York’s guidelines in federal court. State health officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit.

State Health Department spokesperson Erin Silk did say the guidelines were neither requirements nor qualifications for treatment, rather, rather they asked healthcare providers to consider a long list of factors when doling out treatment, including medical conditions and vaccination status.



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