Last week, the White House warned that if there was no additional money passed by Congress to replenish COVID measures, things like surveillance for new variants and purchases of preventive treatments would have to be immediately scaled back. The Biden administration is asking for at least $22.5 million in new funding, but the ramifications of not having that money have already begun.
The Health Resources & Services Administration’s Uninsured stopped accepting claims for testing and treatment at midnight Tuesday due to insufficient funds, Axios reports. The program will only pay on vaccination-related claims through April 5th.
Twenty eight million Americans lack health coverage and would be affected by the break of testing and treatment. Another alarming issue is the potential lack of booster shots. If the Biden administration doesn’t receive the $4 and $9 billion it needs, the government will not be able to buy enough doses for all Americans to receive a second booster.
“If you want doses in the fall, we need to go to contract now. Not going to contract now puts those doses at risk,” one of the senior officials told Axios. “We have to be prepared for a booster campaign beginning in September, in the fall.”
“Our gap in resources is even more severe if we need a variant-specific vaccine,” an official added on the press call.
The longer the U.S. waits to approve more funds, the more other countries will jump the line in terms of vaccination orders. Moderna is seeking an emergency use authorization for vaccines in children under six years old and a second booster shot for all adults. Pfizer is only seeking a fourth shot for adults 65 and older. If there’s an Omicron-tailored booster that is approved in the next few months and a potentially more transmissible variant comes along, the U.S. would be in trouble.
“It would be important to have a contract in place with the U.S. government by the end of this month or soon thereafter to ensure that Americans have access to boosters in the fall, should they become necessary and if approved by regulators,” said a source close to one of the mRNA vaccine makers.