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White House Urges Congress to Pass Funding to Prevent More American COVID Deaths

White House Urges Congress to Pass Funding to Prevent More American COVID Deaths

Several months ago, the White House signaled a warning that the country had burned through all of the money in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that was dedicated directly to the COVID-19 response. The Biden administration subsequently has requested an additional $22.5 billion for what it called “urgent” needs in both the U.S. and abroad.

The Senate settled on a smaller $10 billion package last month which focused more on domestic needs and less on COVID. But even that deal fell apart as lawmakers objected to an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it would end Trump-era Title 42 border restrictions related to the pandemic.

 

The White House is mounting a push for doctors this week to start prescribing the antiviral pill Paxlovid, which was initially rationed for those at the highest risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19 but is now more widely available. A 20 million-dose order placed last year by the government helped boost manufacturing capacity. When administered within five days of symptoms appearing, Paxlovid has been proven to bring about a 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease. Some 314 Americans are now dying each day from the coronavirus, down from more than 2,600 during the height of the omicron wave earlier this year.

Complicating matters further are the long lead times to manufacture the antiviral and antibody treatments. Paxlovid takes about six months to produce, and monoclonal antibody treatments used to treat COVID-19 and prevent serious disease in the immunocompromised take similarly long, meaning the U.S. is running out of time to replenish its stockpile before the end of the year. Last month the White House began cutting back shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments to states to make supplies last longer.

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The funding debate is also holding up U.S. purchases of COVID-19 vaccine booster doses, including an upcoming new generation of vaccines that may better protect against the omicron variant. Moderna and Pfizer both are testing what scientists call “bivalent” shots — a mix of each company’s original vaccine and an omicron-targeted version — with Moderna announcing last week it hopes to have its version ready this fall.

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