Posted on January 25, 2022

GOP Say Democrats’ Virus Drug Guidance Is Anti-White

Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly, Politico, January 25, 2022

Republicans are accusing the Biden administration of racism — against white people.

The administration’s recommendation that race and ethnicity be considered when deciding who gets the limited supply of new Covid drugs is the latest political cudgel with which Republicans are hammering Democrats, looking to energize their base ahead of the midterm elections.

And Democratic strategists say these attacks, while baseless, may prove effective, further hampering the party’s efforts to retain its slim congressional majorities.


The issue is gaining steam in both the establishment and MAGA activist wings of the party. Sen. Marco Rubio is among several lawmakers pushing the Food and Drug Administration to rescind the recommendation, calling it “racist and un-American.” Former President Donald Trump during his rally in Arizona earlier this month claimed that the Biden administration is “denigrating white people to determine who lives and who dies.” The Wall Street Journal recently ran an editorial blasting New York’s version of the policy as “unfair and possibly illegal” and warned that “Democrats could pay a lasting political price” for it. Former White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, who is suing New York over the policy and threatened legal action against Minnesota and Utah, railed against the efforts as “unconstitutional, immoral, and tyrannical.”

A senior aide to one of the GOP members of Congress focused on the issue told POLITICO that Republicans are looking for ways to squeeze Democrats on the race criteria leading up to the November midterms and beyond.

“There’s not a ton we can do now. But if there’s another vote-a-rama, expect an amendment on this. It’ll be a tough vote for Democrats,” he said. “And if Republicans take back Congress, expect investigations and oversight. We will make the officials who signed off on it come up here and defend it.”

The FDA’s December guidance on the use of sotrovimab — the only monoclonal antibody proven effective against Omicron — notes people of color may be at higher risk for severe Covid-19 and said it’s one factor among several that doctors can consider when doling out the drugs given that they remain in short supply.

The nonbinding recommendations and similar criteria from a handful of state health departments are intended to reduce the racial disparities that have been present since the beginning of the pandemic. As recently as October, for example, Hispanic, Black and Asian people in the U.S. were twice as likely to die of Covid than white people when adjusted for age, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Some states have gone further than the Biden administration and explicitly required race and ethnicity be considered when determining whether someone should receive the medication.

In Utah and Minnesota, state health departments had established risk scoring systems that used race or ethnicity as a preferential factor to decide who receives monoclonal antibody treatments. In New York, the state health department released guidance instructing providers that “non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity” should be considered a risk factor for Covid-19 because “longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”


Some influential Republicans see a political opportunity and consider this fight — which they compare to ongoing crusades against affirmative action and Critical Race Theory — as advantageous for conservatives and a political liability for anyone supporting the racial equity push at the ballot box in November.

“It is a huge vulnerability for anyone that does this,” said Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “Any elected official, whether they are a Democrat or Republican, who goes along with this or approves this is going to face the wrath of voters everywhere.”


The political backlash is already having an effect, further fraying the already patchwork policy at the state level.

Following the legal threats from Miller’s group, health officials in both Minnesota and Utah removed race and ethnicity as criteria for allocating scarce monoclonal antibody treatments. The Midwest hospital system SSM Health also publicized a change to its policy on the use of race and ethnicity as a factor for treatment allocation after a legal threat from a conservative Wisconsin law firm.

New York state, meanwhile, stood by its guidance after America First Legal filed suit. The state’s health commissioner, Mary Bassett, told state lawmakers last week that the guidance “reflects the social consequences of racial ethnic classification in our society, which has had an enduring and longstanding impact on peoples’ ability to live a long and healthy life.”