White House warns of Covid treatment, vaccine cuts without added funding


WASHINGTON — Biden administration officials warned that the U.S. will soon run out of funding for future Covid booster shots, new treatments and testing efforts if the spending legislation remains stuck in Congress.

The federal government will be canceling plans to purchase additional monoclonal antibody treatments that it had expected to order as soon as next week after Congress failed to provide an additional $22.5 billion in Covid funding that the White House had requested, said a senior administration official.

Officials predicted the country’s supply of monoclonal antibody treatments will run out as soon as late May, and the White House told governors Tuesday morning that it will cut the number of monoclonal antibody treatments being sent to states by 30 percent starting next week, the official said.

“The bottom line is, without additional funding, thousands of patients could lose access to treatments, and these companies will have little incentive to continue investing in the development and manufacturing of these treatments,” the official said. 

Officials also warned that without more funding, the federal government would be unable to provide a fourth booster shot for all Americans if that is needed and only has enough funding currently for immunocompromised individuals who need to seek a fourth shot. The U.S. would also be unable to purchase a new variant specific vaccine if that were to be required in the future.

“We want to be clear, waiting to provide funding until we’re in a worse spot with the virus will be too late,” the official said. “Importantly, when you consider the cost of all these investments compared to the cost of what we will prevent in terms of hospitalizations, death, and damage to our health care system and our economy, it is not a close call.”

The White House warning comes amid indications that Covid cases are once again on the rise as states and businesses roll back mask and vaccination requirements. Public health experts have warned that a sharp rise in cases in Europe driven by a new variant could foreshadow what is to come for the U.S. 

While cases in the U.S. have been steadily going down, the rise in at home tests has limited the CDC’s ability to detect new infections in the U.S. Instead, experts are looking to waste water monitoring, which has shown a 38 percent rise in infections at sites tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the last two weeks. But with so many Americans having some level of immunity from being infected or vaccinated it is unclear whether a rise in cases could lead to another surge in hospitalizations and deaths, public health experts said.

The White House had initially asked for $22.5 billion in additional Covid funding to continue to support a range of programs from testing to sending vaccines overseas as part of a wider spending bill. But following opposition from Republicans and Democrats, the House stripped the Covid funding.

House Democrats have introduced a separate Covid relief bill, but it doesn’t appear to have enough support to pass the Senate. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said it “doesn’t help anything” that the Covid money was dropped from the omnibus bill.

“I’m not convinced of the need yet, but I don’t know for sure. So I’m open minded on that,” Shelby said. “But I’d like to see — and I’ve said this — we need a real accounting for the money.” He said that if money is “not hidden” and a need is demonstrated, Congress could revisit it.

The White House has been looking to shift the country into a new phase of the pandemic where people are able to live with the virus and return to work and their regular activities. But officials said that plan was dependent on additional funding from Congress to continue testing and expand use of treatments. 

Among the other programs that will start running out of funding will be a program that reimburses doctors and other medical providers for caring for uninsured individuals, which will start to be scaled back this month and end completely in early April, the White House said. On March 22 the program will stop accepting new claims for testing.

The federal government will also lack the ability to maintain its domestic testing manufacturing capacity beyond June. 

Sahil Kapur contributed.



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