President Joe Biden warned Wednesday that the United States will not have enough of a Covid vaccine this fall to ensure free and easy access for all Americans if Congress fails to pass the $22.5 billion in additional funding the administration has requested.
Biden said the United States has enough supplies to ensure that people who qualify for the fourth shot can get there. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended an extra dose of Pfizer or Moderna for people 50 and older, as well as some younger individuals with weakened immune systems.
Biden, 79, received his fourth dose live after his remarks.
As the country enters a new phase of its vaccination campaign, the president called on Congress to act to ensure the United States has the resources it needs should another wave of infections emerge.
“Americans are back to living their lives again,” Biden said. “We can’t compromise on that. Congress please act. You have to act immediately. The consequences of the injection are dire, and will only grow with time.”
Dawn O’Connell, a senior official with the Department of Health and Human Services, told Congress on Wednesday that the United States does not have the doses it needs if a booster campaign for the general population proves necessary in the fall.
O’Connell told the House Select Committee on the coronavirus crisis.
“We don’t have any of these doses, and we don’t have any funding for these doses,” said O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS.
New infections and hospitalizations have fallen by more than 90% from the peak of the Omicron winter wave in January. However, the decline in infections has slowed and stabilized in recent days as the most contagious variant of omicron, BA.2, has become the dominant version of Covid in BA in the United States, and has already caused new waves of infections in Europe and China.
White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month that BA.2 is likely to cause a spike in infections in the United States. No further increase in cases is expected.
The Washington State Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation expects that infections will continue to decline through the spring and summer. However, Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at IHME, said another surge could occur in the fall as immunity from vaccines declines and people move indoors during cold weather.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans failed to reach a bipartisan agreement on $15 billion in Covid-19 funding, less than the White House requested. Republicans want to cover any new spending by cutting money already allocated to state and local governments. Democrats rejected this request.
Negotiations are underway in the House and Senate to find a compromise.
Biden also warned that the United States would not have the funds to increase testing, monoclonal antibody treatments and antiviral pills if another wave of the Covid virus swept the United States.
The president also unveiled a new government website, covid.gov, where Americans can find out where they can get masks, tests, vaccines and treatments.