White House says US will run out of money to fight pandemic

A healthcare professional prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic at the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody, Massachusetts, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022.

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The White House warned on Tuesday that the United States will not have enough life-saving Covid reminders and treatments for Americans if Congress fails to pass $22.5 billion in additional pandemic funding.

Senior Biden administration officials, on a call with reporters, said the United States could face another wave of Covid infections in the coming months, even as new cases and hospitalizations have fallen significantly since the peak of the unprecedented omicron surge in January. Infections are already on the rise again in major European countries, such as the UK and Germany. China is grappling with its worst outbreak since 2020.

Officials have warned that funding is urgently needed to get ahead of another wave of Covid. Last week, House Democrats withdrew $15 billion in coronavirus funding, which was already less than Biden had requested, from a broader spending bill after failing to reach a deal. bipartisan with Republicans. The GOP insisted that Congress compensate for new Covid funds by cutting funds to state and local governments for the spring, a demand that many Democrats were unwilling to accept.

Senior administration officials told reporters that the federal government would not be able to purchase enough boosters, vaccines targeting specific variants or more antiviral pills beyond the 20 million already ordered from Pfizer if a additional funding was not approved.

There is also no funding left for additional monoclonal antibody treatments, including an order scheduled for March 25, officials said. If more funding doesn’t arrive, the federal government will have to cut state monoclonal antibody allocations by more than 30% starting next week, they said.

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The federal government will also not be able to maintain sufficient Covid testing capacity beyond June in the event of a further surge, officials said. During the omicron wave, there was a rush for home testing and in-person clinics, resulting in hours-long lines and empty pharmacy shelves.

Uninsured people will also no longer have coverage for Covid testing and treatment, according to the White House. The fund that covers them will stop accepting new claims within a week, forcing health care providers to absorb costs or turn away patients, officials said. The fund will fully end in early April and uninsured people will no longer have coverage for vaccinations, they said.

Some investments made in monitoring new Covid variants will also have to be cut, officials said, leaving the United States without the capabilities it needs to stay abreast of the virus’ evolution. The emergence of the highly mutated omicron variant blindsided the United States and much of the world in November.

The White House said the money was also needed to fund the development of a vaccine that covers a range of Covid variants and support the administration’s efforts to help increase vaccination rates in developing countries. Without money, the risk will increase that new variants will emerge, officials said. Omicron appeared in South Africa and Botswana, and the delta variant was first identified in India.

CNBC Ylan Mui contributed to this report.

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