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POTUS Setting Aside COVID Billions to Treat Unvaccinated As US Prepares For Another Winter Surge

POTUS Setting Aside COVID Billions to Treat Unvaccinated As US Prepares For Another Winter Surge

After a year of tireless but ultimately fruitless efforts to vaccinate more Americans, President Joe Biden is spending almost $10 billion on new and experimental Covid-19 treatments that will largely help those he hasn’t been able to convince.

Biden administration officials see the pandemic as being far from over, that the incidents of breakthrough cases will continue to present problems and that for the unvaccinated, many who don’t trust or like President Biden, they aren’t giving up. But other world leaders have already acknowledged the unlikelihood of reaching ‘zero Covid’ status thanks to those remaining resistant.

This week alone, the Biden administration inked a $5.25 billion deal with Pfizer for its experimental pill to treat Covid infections and agreed to pay $1 billion for a monoclonal antibody treatment from GlaxoSmithKline. That comes one top of multibillion-dollar deals earlier this month with Merck and Eli Lilly for their Covid medicines.

Spending billions of dollars on pills to treat Covid infections is far from where President Biden anticipated he would be less than six months ago when he called on Americans to “declare our independence from the virus” during the “summer of freedom.”

The treatments, which have been shown in studies to reduce the risk of hospitalizations and deaths, would provide the greatest benefit to the 1 in 5 Americans who have not been vaccinated and are at greatest risk for severe illness. But with vaccine immunity reportedly waning and just a fraction of those eligible for a booster having got the additional shot, the drugs could increasingly be needed by the vaccinated.

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With tens of millions of Americans continuing to refuse to get vaccinated, the pills give President Biden one more tool in preventing the pandemic from returning to a point where hospitals are overwhelmed, schools are closed and people avoid travel and dining out, public health officials have said. While administration officials say their focus still remains on increasing vaccination rates, the deals with Pfizer and Merck will provide enough treatments for 15 million people by the end of next year if their drugs are cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a move expected by the end of the year.

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