“The issue of equity and distribution of Paxlovid is similar to what we saw in the distribution of the vaccine,” she said. “You have to think about access to primary care pharmacies, particularly in economically disadvantaged communities.”
Community hesitancy also plays a role, Salas-Lopez noted. “These are new vaccines, new treatments, so the familiarity isn’t there with all of our community members, but in particular, our community members who have experienced a lack of trust in the health care system.
“In addition, guidelines for testing and vaccines and medications for treatment can quickly change, making it difficult for providers and community members to stay abreast of all the changes — your head spins,” she said.
Structural racism may also play a role, Salas-Lopez added.
One weakness of the study, she noted, is that the researchers didn’t account for prescriptions given directly at walk-in clinics and drug stores, which gave out thousands of doses of Paxlovid and might have altered the results.
Salas-Lopez said that it’s partly the responsibility of health care systems to end these disparities.
At her health care system, they created a health equity task force to identify the weak spots in health care in their community. They then began outreach programs to close these gaps.
“Health systems have to work hard to address the issue of inequity,” Salas-Lopez said. “It takes a mission and a vision to do that, and then action.”
The report, which followed patients from January to July of this year, was published Oct. 28 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
For more on COVID-19, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Tegan Boehmer, PhD, acting lead, Healthy Community Design Initiative, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH, senior vice president, Community and Population Health, Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Oct. 28, 2022