By Jack Phillips
The White House warned that it will have to make cutbacks to the U.S. COVID-19 response if Congress doesn’t authorize new funding.
“As the Administration has warned, failure to fund these efforts now will have severe consequences as we will not be equipped to deal with a future surge. Waiting to provide funding once we’re in a surge will be too late,” the White House wrote in a statement Tuesday.
The Biden administration’s statement also noted that the United States won’t have enough booster doses or vaccines specific to emerging COVID-19 variants.
Meanwhile, the statement added that the “federal government is unable to purchase additional life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments and will run out of supply to send to states as soon as late May” while the “federal government cannot purchase sufficient quantities of treatments for immunocompromised individuals.”
“And, the federal government will be unable to sustain the testing capacity we built over the last 14 months, as we head into the second half of the year,” according to the White House. And vaccine shortages “will be even more acute if … we need a variant-specific booster vaccine, since we will not have any existing supply,” the statement continued.
A letter will be sent to Congress on Tuesday outlining the COVID-19 response cutbacks to pressure members of Congress to provide funding, said the White House statement.
Previously, Senate Republicans have insisted that the new funds be entirely paid for, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Monday that she hopes the House will vote on “at least part” of the COVID-19 response funding this week.
Some public health officials recently warned that there could be forthcoming shortages of COVID-19 antiviral drugs, tests, and other therapeutics.
“Congress needs to think of this as an investment as they did before, ensuring that we have the capacity. This virus has fooled us every single time we thought we understood it,” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told the Washington Examiner. “The amount of money they’re asking for in light of the multitrillion-dollar impact in our society I don’t think is unwarranted.”
The administration’s statement came as President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a 2,700-page, $1.5 trillion government spending bill that didn’t include a proposed $22.5 billion in COVID-19 relief.
“Once we lost it in the House, it’ll be tough to get back,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told reporters on Monday after the proposed funding wasn’t included in the spending package. “I don’t know if those House members deluded themselves into believing that there was some other path, but I think it’s hard to find an alternative path other than in the budget.”