Biden administration running out of money for Covid testing, vaccines and treatment amid BA.2 variant threat

The White House may be out of funding for Covid mitigation efforts soon, officials warn
The White House may be out of funding for Covid mitigation efforts soon, officials warn (Pictures: Getty Images/ REX)

The White House says they’re running out of funding to pay for a potential fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose for all Americans — and without additional funds from Congress, testing and treatment programs will be scaled back.

Without the money, the government will not be able to buy enough booster shots, new vaccines and antiviral pills, and will likely run out of monoclonal antibody treatments by May, administration officials said.

The Biden Administration had requested $22.5billion in supplemental Covid-19 relief as part of the massive government funding package that passed two weeks ago. Negotiations scaled back the tab to $15.6billion, but following pushback from Republicans and Democrats, the money was gutted from the bill all together.

As officials stress the need for more funding to fight the coronavirus, they are also warning that the virus’s newest variant may cause cases to spike once again.

The BA.2 Omicron subvariant has been in the US for some time, officials confirmed Monday. There are approximately 35,000 cases currently, and more to be expected.

Known as a ‘stealth Omicron,’ the BA.2 subvariant has a different genetic sequence from Omicron making it harder to detect and classify using current PCR tests.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it would be a ‘dire’ situation if the funding from Congress did not materialize.

‘With cases rising abroad, scientific and medical experts have been clear that in the next couple of months there could be increasing cases of Covid-19 in the United States as well,’ she said.

‘Waiting to provide funding until we’re in a worse spot with the virus will be too late. We need funding now so we’re prepared for whatever comes.’

Chief White House Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci agreed with Psaki’s urgent statement during a Sunday appearance on ABC’s This Week.

‘The bottom line is we likely will see an uptick in cases, as we’ve seen in the European countries, particularly in the UK,’ Fauci said.

According to an administration official, the White House has secured funding to vaccinate children under the age of five and to offer a fourth booster shot to Americans over the age of 65.

Beyond that, the administration has been unable to secure additional doses, and risks losing out on them as other countries buy them.

Federal regulators and health officials have not yet said whether a fourth dose will be needed for the general population. Last week, Pfizer and Moderna filed for emergency authorization of second booster shots of their Covid vaccines, with Pfizer specifically requesting authorization for adults 65 and older while Moderna looked for approval for all adults.

Both companies are also looking to create coronavirus vaccines for children under the age of five, though none have been authorized yet.

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