Biden’s plans for other Covid-19 boosters threatened by funding impasse
Biden’s plans for other Covid-19 boosters threatened by funding impasse

Biden’s plans for other Covid-19 boosters threatened by funding impasse

The Biden administration’s preliminary plan for a rollout of another Covid-19 booster dose this autumn is being hit by funding issues.

The White House had asked Congress for $ 22.5 billion in additional Covid-19 funding. Congressional Republicans, however, have called for the reuse of money previously earmarked for Covid-19, which states have not yet used. A plan to do so as part of a smaller $ 15.6 billion rescue package recently failed when a number of House Democrats refused to recover funds from states.

The issue in the funding dispute, administration officials say, is new money for Covid-19 tests, care for the uninsured and replenishing the dwindling supplies of antibody drugs, vaccines and boosters. The preliminary autumn booster campaign is also now up in the air, officials say. The administration has no authority to move funds or redirect cash from other programs to pay for the shots, an official said.

A Covid-19 antigen test site in Long Beach, California. The effect of mRNA-based shoots diminishes somewhat after several months, research has shown.


Photo:

Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

So far in the pandemic, the federal government has ordered and paid for vaccines. That role is expected to shrink over time as private insurance companies take on an expanded presence. The administration recently required private insurance companies to cover the cost of home tests. However, to encourage vaccination, the White House wants to continue providing Covid-19 vaccines and treatments so that people do not face any costs.

In order to create support for more public funds, the administration has launched a campaign to encourage legislators, heads of state and the public. The Minister of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, spoke Thursday with Democratic leadership about the need for funding.

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Finding money to pay for yet another round of booster shots is particularly urgent, officials say, because the government needs to place orders now to have enough doses if they are needed for a broad-based autumn campaign.

Some health experts say the funding death could add more obstacles to slowing down the Covid-19 transfer and getting past the pandemic. Still, health experts so far disagree on whether the general public or just the elderly and those with weaker immune systems should get a new booster. Meanwhile, U.S. officials are in public health cautiously watching the number of cases of Covid-19 increase abroad as a newer version of the Omicron variant spreads and restrictions loosen.

In the midst of an increase in cases, some countries are handing out other booster shots. In Israel, early data suggest that a fourth dose of vaccine may increase antibodies to Covid-19, but not enough to prevent Omicron infections. WSJ explains. Photo composed: Eve Hartley / WSJ

Pfizer Inc.

and

BioNTech SE

asked the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration on Tuesday approve another booster of their vaccine for persons aged 65 years and older. A separate plan from the White House to offer other booster shots to seniors is still possible in the spring, administration officials say if the FDA approves the extra doses for the group.

Modern Inc.

asked the FDA on Thursday to clean up another booster of its vaccine. Moderna said it requested the extra dose for all adults 18 years and older to give health authorities the flexibility to determine the best use of an extra booster shot.

Some studies have shown the effectiveness of the messenger RNA vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both administered in an initial two-dose regimen, fades after several months. Boosters’ effectiveness in preventing hospitalization fell to about 78% after four months compared to more than 90% in the first two months, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A small study from Israel showed that another Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot increased antibody levels.

Israel, Japan and England are among the countries that have begun or are considering a fourth round of shooting for mRNA vaccine recipients.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla recently said a fourth shot would be needed. The company is also looking at a vaccine tailored specifically to counteract the Omicron variant which is now widespread. Modern President Stephen Hoge has said a fourth shot could be beneficial, but has stopped saying it would be necessary for everyone.

So far, U.S. health authorities are recommending initial boosters for all 12-year-olds and older who received Pfizer’s vaccine, starting at least five months after completing the first series. Modern boosters are recommended at least five months after the initial treatment for people aged 18 and over. And a booster is also recommended for people 18 years and older who have received one

Johnson & Johnson

vaccine, which is given as a single dose.

People received Covid-19 boosters last month in Japan, one of a handful of countries weighing a potential fourth round of shots at mRNA vaccine recipients.


Photo:

Toru Hanai / Bloomberg News

The FDA must decide whether to approve boosters for all adults and whether a booster should be adapted to Omicron.

The Biden administration has weighed another booster-shot campaign this fall, in part because many people get their annual flu shot back then, so officials thought the public might be more receptive to getting Covid-19 vaccinations at the same time. It is also possible that the autumn campaign, if it should occur, could be part of an annual vaccination effort, say officials in the administration.

About 44% of the U.S. population eligible for a Covid-19 booster has received one, according to the CDC. About 65% of the United States is fully vaccinated.

Write to Stephanie Armor at [email protected]

Corrections and reinforcements
A photo accompanying this article shows Covid-19 vaccination shots given in Long Beach, California, last year. The caption in an earlier version of this article incorrectly said booster shots were given earlier this month. (Corrected March 18)

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