Biden administration launches lengthy Covid research plan

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) before receiving a second COVID-19 booster vaccination in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington , USA, March 30, 2022.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden on Tuesday asked the Department of Health and Human Services to lead a federal research effort on the diagnosis and treatment of long Covid.

The national research plan will accelerate the recruitment of 40,000 people into the National Institutes of Health study of the long-term effects of Covid-19 infection, according to the White House. The NIH launched the large study, known as Recover, in September.

The federal effort will also leverage a nationwide survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs on persistent symptoms after Covid infection, and a study by the Department of Defense on risk factors for developing the disease in service members.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and the White House Covid Response Team will discuss the initiative during a press briefing at 3 p.m. ET.

Some people who contract Covid show symptoms months later. These symptoms, which are disabling for some, include difficulty breathing, fatigue, trouble concentrating, body aches, tingling sensations, and mood swings, among others.

Even people who had only mild illness after infection and people who initially had no symptoms can develop long Covid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other people also suffer from autoimmune diseases that can affect multiple organ systems, including heart, lung, kidney, skin, and brain function. Nearly 8,000 children have developed such symptoms, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, according to the CDC. At least 66 children have died from MIS-C.

In July, HHS and the Department of Justice said people with long-term Covid were eligible for discrimination protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program must also cover long-term Covid treatment, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Biden’s 2023 budget would invest $20 million to help provide better care for longtime Covid patients, including the development of multi-specialty clinics. The budget also includes $25 million to spur CDC research into the risk factors and health effects of long Covid.

Congress has been less willing than the Biden administration to fund America’s Covid response. The senators on Monday reached an agreement for additional Covid funding of $10 billion for therapies, vaccines and tests – a sum less than half of what the White House wanted.

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