The United States has made tremendous progress in our fight against COVID-19. Over the past 14 months, the Biden administration has made vital investments – using resources made available by Congress on a bipartisan basis – to ensure that the American people have free and widely available access to life-saving tools: vaccines, booster shots, treatments, tests and high-quality masks. As we enter a new moment in the pandemic, Congress has not given us the funding we need to continue the COVID-19 response and minimize the impact of the pandemic on the nation and our economy. With increasing cases abroad, scientific and medical experts have been aware that in the next few months, there may be increasing cases of COVID-19 here in the United States as well. As the administration has warned, the lack of funding for these efforts will now have serious consequences, as we will not be equipped to deal with a future increase. It will be too late to wait for funding when we are on the rise.
Without funding, the United States will not have enough additional boosters or variant-specific vaccines, if necessary, for all Americans. The federal government is unable to purchase additional life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments and will run out of supplies to ship to states as soon as the end of May. The federal government cannot purchase sufficient quantities of treatments for immunocompromised individuals. And the federal government will not be able to maintain the testing capacity we have built up over the last 14 months as we enter the second half of the year.
Earlier this month, President Biden presented a comprehensive plan to ensure the country can continue to move forward safely and remain prepared to fight new variants and future increases in the virus. And the administration has been aware that we need Congress to provide additional resources, including $ 22.5 billion in immediate emergency funding. Lack of action will set us back in this fight, leave us less prepared and cost us more lives.
Consequences of lack of critical funding include:
- Inability to ensure adequate booster doses and variant-specific vaccines if necessary: The federal government does not have sufficient resources to purchase enough booster vaccine doses for all Americans if additional doses are needed. The shortage becomes even more acute if we need a variant-specific booster vaccine, as we have no existing supply.
- Providers are no longer able to submit requirements for testing, treatment and vaccination of uninsured: The fund, which reimburses doctors and other medical providers for the care of uninsured persons, begins to be reduced this month and ends completely in early April. Specifically, one week from today – March 22 – the Uninsured program will stop accepting new requirements for testing and treatment due to lack of adequate funding. Providers will no longer be able to file claims for these services to uninsured individuals, forcing providers to either absorb the costs or reject people who are not insured, increasing the difference in access to critically needed healthcare and placing additional burdens on safety net providers. Three weeks from today – April 5 – the Uninsured program will also stop accepting vaccination claims due to lack of adequate funding.
- Completion of purchase of monoclonal antibody treatments, downscaling of state / territory allocations: The federal government has no further funds for additional monoclonals, including a planned order by March 25th. To date, the federal government has been able to offer these life-saving treatments free of charge to Americans and work with states to ensure they reach as many people as possible who need them. To keep these treatments free and available to the American people for as long as possible, the administration will now have to stretch our current supply and will from next week be forced to cut government allocations of our limited existing supply of life-savers. monoclonal antibody treatments by more than 30%.
- Stopping critical testing, vaccine, treatment efforts: The President’s National Contingency Plan was aware that the federal government must invest in next-generation vaccines and treatments and maintain our testing capabilities to combat COVID-19 in the future. Now, without additional funding, we do not have the opportunity to:
- Buy additional oral antiviral pills in addition to the already secured 20 million.
- Pre-purchase promising new antiviral drugs. The reason why the administration has been able to secure more oral antiviral pills than any other country is because we have committed to buy them early, even before an emergency use permit (EUA). As even more effective pills potentially become available, the federal government is no longer able to impose pre-emption commitments to ensure America is one of the first countries in the series.
- Accelerate the creation of a next generation of pan-COVID vaccine that would provide broad protection against a range of variants. Vaccines are the most effective tool for preventing COVID-19, and the Administration does not have the funds to make the necessary investments in research and to support the development of promising new vaccine candidates. Such next-generation vaccines have the potential to extend protection against known and future variants, reduce dosing through single-dose primary regimens with extended protection duration (ie longer interval between boosters or possible elimination of boosters altogether) and reduce the cost of increasing production giving and extending shelf life .
- Maintain our domestic testing capacity beyond June. After spending the last year building our testing capacity, these advances will be wasted and the administration will not be able to help keep domestic producers online as of June. This means that during the second half of the year there will be a significant reduction in domestic test capacity, and we may be unprepared for increases.
- Scaling down planned purchases of preventive treatments for immunocompromised: The federal government plans to proceed with a purchase of preventative treatments for immunocompromised as soon as March 31, which would begin delivery in September once the treatments are manufactured. However, in the absence of additional funding, the federal government will now be forced to scale down the purchase of treatments to our most vulnerable. Because these treatments take more than 6 months to manufacture, the United States is unlikely to have enough of these treatments by the end of the year. And being unable to make additional purchase commitments now likely means fewer treatments will also be available next year.
- Reduces the ability to quickly identify and evaluate new variants. Robust monitoring and research are essential to identify, understand and monitor new varieties. With reduced ability to perform adequate surveillance, the country will tend to be “blind-sided” by future variants. In the absence of funding to immediately assess laboratory-based efficacy and the real-world efficacy of existing vaccines and treatments as new variants emerge, healthcare professionals will be forced to make inadequately informed treatment decisions. The administration will have to phase out some COVID monitoring investments, making us less able to detect the next variant.
- Injuries to global vaccination and COVID-19 treatment efforts: Without additional funding to support the firing of weapons, USAID and partners across agencies will have to cut back on efforts to turn vaccines into vaccinations across the globe. Leaving large unvaccinated populations worldwide will increase the risk of new lethal variants emerging that may elude our current vaccines and treatments. Without additional funding, the administration would not be able to extend Global VAX increase support to 20+ additional under-vaccinated countries, which will need intensive support this year to get shots at arms. This will destroy our ability to ensure that these countries can effectively implement safe and effective vaccines. USAID will also not be able to provide life-saving supplies, tests, therapeutic agents, oxygen and humanitarian aid to countries still struggling to cope with a persistent COVID disease burden.
In addition to the immediate need for funding, to facilitate a smooth transition to insurance coverage of life-saving COVID treatments, the administration requests that Congress authorize the provision of trouble-free access to Medicare and insurance coverage for treatments under an emergency use license (EUA).