The Biden Administration is sounding the alarm for the urgent need for Congress to provide funding for the nation's COVID-19 response and is underscoring the severe consequences of their inaction: Fewer vaccines, treatments, and tests for the American people, and fewer shots in arms around the world.
Over the past 15 months, the Biden Administration has used the resources Congress provided to mobilize a comprehensive COVID-19 response. As a result, the United States has made tremendous progress in our fight against the virus-saving over 2 million American lives, safely reopening our schools, creating jobs at a record pace, returning to more normal routines, and averting $900 billion in health care costs.
In March, the President laid out a comprehensive National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan to keep America moving forward safely, by ensuring that lifesaving tools like vaccines and treatments remain free and widely available to Americans, by preparing for potential surges and new variants, and by getting more shots in arms around the world. Executing this plan remains essential to sustaining the progress we have made and saving more lives. There has been an uptick in cases in parts of the country and, while cases will continue to fluctuate, this virus has proven itself to be unpredictable. Without funding, the United States will be unprepared for whatever comes next.
COVID-19 isn't waiting on Congress to negotiate. Other countries will not wait. Time is of the essence. Congress must act urgently to help save more American lives and ensure we remain prepared.
Congressional inaction on additional COVID-19 response funding means:
Fewer Vaccines for Americans:
- The Administration cannot secure enough booster shots for every American, if they are needed in the fall. At this moment, the United States has enough supply to support one booster shot for Americans age 12 and over, and additional boosters for immunocompromised individuals and those age 50 and older. However, if additional booster shots are authorized and recommended for the general population, we will not have the supply necessary to provide free and easy access to them for all Americans. At this time last year, the Administration was contracting for future boosters that could ultimately be needed starting in September; this allowed us to make those booster shots free and widely available as soon as they were authorized. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) needs to begin contracting for boosters imminently so that the agency can conclude contractual negotiations as soon as May to ensure delivery of sufficient supply by September. Other countries are already placing orders for future needs and as a result, will get supply before it is available for Americans. Just yesterday, Pfizer submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization for its booster for kids ages 5 to 11. If these boosters are authorized and recommended, we would not have enough supply for every child in that age group. Not having enough supply to support booster shots for everyone, if needed, puts American lives at risk, and is a completely avoidable outcome.
- The Administration cannot secure new COVID-19 vaccines to protect against multiple variants for the American people. Vaccine manufacturers are working on developing vaccines that could offer broader and longer-lasting protection than our existing vaccines-and there is ongoing discussion among scientific and medical experts, including FDA's panel of outside experts, about the potential need for vaccines with new formulations in the future to better protect us from variants. Just this month, Moderna released data on a new vaccine that could potentially offer better protection against multiple variants. The company also announced that it expects to release data on an Omicron-specific vaccine soon. This means that there could be more effective vaccines available as soon as this fall that can enhance the protection Americans receive from getting vaccinated. The United States should be securing these vaccines today, but without funding, the Administration cannot purchase doses for the American people or even ensure that America is in line for them. This could mean people in other countries have access to the best lifesaving vaccines before Americans. Vaccines have proven to be our single-most important tool in protecting people, and the best ones should be available for the American people.
Fewer Treatments for Americans:
- The Administration cannot restock the nation's supply of lifesaving treatments. To date, the Administration has distributed over 9.6 million courses of treatment across the country, working with states and territories, Tribes, pharmacies, federal health centers, and other partners to provide them to Americans for free. Due to a lack of funding, we have already missed the opportunity to purchase additional supply of these lifesaving treatments. To stretch our supply as much as possible, last month, the Administration was forced to cut the number of monoclonal antibody treatments distributed to states by over 30 percent. Ensuring these treatments remain free, widely available, and easy to access for people who need them is crucial to our nation moving forward safely.
- The Administration cannot invest in promising treatments or secure newer, even better treatments for the American people. The federal government will not be able to invest in next-generation treatments that have the potential to provide broader protection against future variants or to treat people who may not be able to take full advantage of current treatments. Several candidates may be promising, and the United States will lose an opportunity to secure its spot in line and to support ramped-up manufacturing capacity of these treatments if we do not have funding to secure supply prior to a potential authorization or approval. Given COVID-19's potential to mutate, it is also prudent to support and secure a range of effective treatments that attack the virus in different ways to guard against future variants.
- The Administration will have to scale back purchases of treatments that protect immunocompromised Americans. The Administration has secured more than 1 million courses of Evusheld, a preventive therapy for immunocompromised people. Due to lack of funding, we have had to substantially scale back our plans to purchase additional supply. This therapy takes months to produce, and at this point, we are at risk of missing out on supply that will be delivered in the last few months of 2022. Congressional inaction will put immunocompromised individuals at greater risk as we enter this fall.
Fewer Tests for Americans:
- The Administration cannot sustain domestic testing manufacturing capacity and will be unprepared for another surge in testing demand. Omicron drove unprecedented demand for COVID-19 testing around the world. As cases have fallen dramatically, so has demand for testing. Demand will continue to decrease over time, and as a result, domestic manufacturers will start ramping down production across the next several weeks and months. Federal investments are a crucial way to preserve the domestic testing manufacturing capacity we have built over the last 15 months. Without these investments, it will take manufacturers months to ramp back up to rebuild capacity, so failure to invest now will leave us with insufficient testing capacity and supply if we see another surge in cases and demand for testing increases once again. This would mean empty store shelves, long lines at testing sites, and slower results which will have life-or-death consequences for people who need to take lifesaving treatments within days of becoming symptomatic. That should not be allowed to happen.
Fewer Shots in Arms Around the World:
- The United States cannot supercharge our effort to get more shots in arms, putting us at greater risk for more variants that may prove to be even more dangerous than the ones we have faced to date. The U.S. has now delivered over half a billion adult vaccines to 114 countries. Countries need funding and assistance to turn vaccines into vaccinations. Without additional funding for our global response, we will not have resources to help get more shots in arms in countries in need-which is one of the best ways we can prevent future variants. We will also lack funding to provide oxygen and other lifesaving supplies, and our global genomic sequencing capabilities will fall off-undermining our ability to detect any emerging variants around the world.