A funding dispute with Republican senators could complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to guarantee delivery of free antiviral pills and monoclonal antibody treatments to Americans who test positive for the coronavirus this year.
The question is whether the White House has provided the level of detail Republicans want about the trillions of dollars in spending on Covid aid that Congress had previously approved. A group of three dozen Republican senators, led by Utah’s Mitt Romney, told the White House last week that they would not consider billions in new spending on Covid aid without more detailed accounting of how existing funds had been spent and whether there was still money left.
“It is not yet clear why additional funding is needed,” they wrote in a letter to President Biden on Wednesday.
Government officials have requested $22.5 billion for additional vaccines, oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, testing and support for the global vaccination effort.
Republican senators have suggested the government should divert money from the $1.9 trillion pandemic bill to areas of need, rather than let Congress spend billions in new funds.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that current stocks of monoclonal antibodies will run out by May and stocks of oral antivirals would be exhausted by September without new purchases. “This is an urgent request,” she said.
A breakdown of spending on Covid-related supplies such as tests, vaccines and treatments provided to Congress by the Biden administration and obtained by DailyExpertNews indicated that nearly all existing funds had been spent or committed to signed contracts. , and that all remaining funds had been allocated. The government offered some details about its plans for new Covid spending in a letter to Congress on Wednesday.
The funding dispute is unfolding as the White House tries to work out plans it believes are essential to the country’s efforts to return to a semblance of normalcy.
Hundreds of pharmacies and other health facilities were ready to launch a test-to-treat program this week, allowing people to walk in for a coronavirus test and, if the results are positive, leave with free antiviral pills, board officials said. .
Last week, the Department of Defense told STAT, a medical news outlet, that it would use contract options to buy more of Pfizer’s antiviral treatment, known as Paxlovid, once funding became available.
The White House also said Americans who had already received a package of four free home coronavirus tests from the government this week would be eligible to place a second order on covidtests.gov.
New virus cases in the United States have fallen sharply in recent weeks, but on average, more than 1,500 Americans still die from the virus every day.
There are also signs that a particular version of the Omicron variety, which is even more contagious than the one that swept across the United States this winter, is on the rise, making up about 8 percent of the United States’ case sequence by late February. States. But overall, cases continue to decline and vaccines appear to be equally effective against the Omicron subvariant, which appears to be no more serious.
Biden administration officials hope to include the $22.5 billion in coronavirus aid, in addition to humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, in a comprehensive spending package that the government would fund for the remainder of the fiscal year. Congress has until March 11, when funding ends, to work out the details of a deal.