Watch CBS News

Monoclonal Antibodies Shortage Has Critics Saying There's Racial Discrimination In Who's Getting Treatment

OCEANSIDE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - With record numbers of COVID cases in our area, hospitals are being flooded with requests for antibody treatments that were saving lives, but many patients are being turned away.

Who is still being greenlighted for monoclonal antibodies, and why? CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reports.

It was a gamechanger. Then-President Donald Trump credited monoclonal antibodies for his COVID recovery, but the lifesaving treatment is now in short supply.

Matthew Storms, battling a third bout of COVID-19 with pneumonia, says he was turned away by two Long Island hospitals.


"If I don't meet the criteria, then who does?" Storms said. "The doctor just shut me down and said this is criteria: You're not of age, which is 65, and you're not a minority."

New York state prioritizes treatment based on age and risk factors including people from certain racial and ethnic minority groups.

A spokesman for the Health Department said:

No one in New York is being turned away from life-saving treatment because of their race or any demographic identifier. This guidance is based on CDC guidelines that show COVID mortality rates are higher among certain demographic groups, including senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals and non-white/Hispanic communities.

Critics say the race criteria discriminates.

"The best answer is for the state to just rescind what was a huge mistake in the first place as opposed to trying to spin their way out of it," said Rep. Lee Zeldin.

The nationwide shortage of monoclonal antibodies is forcing hospitals to strictly limit who gets them. At Northwell, demand outnumbers supply two to one.

"Even four weeks ago, we had two different drugs that were effective against COVID. Now, because of Omicron, we really only have one drug," said Dr. Zenobia Brown of Northwell Health.


One antibody therapy that's effective but difficult to produce is called Sotrovimab.

"Everyone is working very hard to make sure we get it to patients. And part of that strategy is really to give it to people who really need it, who are the most likely to be severely ill from COVID," Brown said.

Those most likely to benefit: The severely immunocompromised, with multiple chronic illnesses. Also prioritized? The non-vaccinated.

"Unfortunately, the unvaccinated patients, who should have been vaccinated, they are the ones who are going to be eligible as well," said Dr. Aaron Glatt of Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital. "I would like to reassure the vaccinated and boosted patients that you really don't need this drug in general."

Storms says he expected to be evaluated as an individual, and he feels "disillusioned" and "angry."

Health officials remind the public there is a better way to boost your protection before you even get sick, and it lasts longer than monoclonal antibodies. It's called the vaccine.

Oral antiviral drugs are also in short supply, and also being prioritized for the highest risk patients.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.