Biden looks for $9B+ in new Covid funds as Senate passes resolution to end emergency declaration
The lame duck session is here and the Biden administration yesterday asked Congress for $9.25 billion in new Covid-19 funding for vaccines, treatments and tests even as President Biden’s Covid-19 coordinator said earlier this week that this winter likely won’t come with a big surge of new infections.
Republicans have spurned three previous requests by this administration for emergency Covid funds. The new funds would help to create Operation Warp Speed 2.0, dubbed “Project Covid Shield,” that would help to develop next-gen vaccines and treatments as three variants — BA. 5, BQ.1.1 and B.Q.1 — make up more than 70% of US infections, according to the CDC. Biden is also calling for more funds for the global Covid fight, in addition to $750 million to fight HIV, hepatitis C and monkeypox.
And despite Ashish Jha’s comments at a STAT event signaling an incoming surge of cases is unlikely, the White House said yesterday that it needs these additional resources to ensure adequate supplies and “to help prepare for a possible winter surge,” as well as to “smooth the path to commercialization for vaccines and therapeutics, accelerate research and treatment for long COVID, and develop next-generation vaccines and treatments.”
The first wave of BARDA and federal funding under Warp Speed went to at least nine different vaccines and therapeutics that later became some of the biggest blockbuster medical products of all time.
The US still has ample supplies of a handful of treatments, including Pfizer’s Covid pill Paxlovid, Gilead’s antiviral Veklury, as well as Merck’s pill Lagevrio, AstraZeneca’s Evusheld and Eli Lilly’s bebtelovimab. ASPR said earlier this month that Paxlovid, Veklury and Lagevrio are expected to retain activity circulating variants, including BQ.1 and BQ.1.1.
Biden and Democrats have until Dec. 16 to get the new funds passed, just as Republicans have reiterated their strong opposition to new Covid-19 funds.
The Senate yesterday passed a joint resolution that Republicans put forward to terminate the emergency declaration for Covid-19.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), who introduced the resolution, praised the passage of it and called out President Biden’s “60 Minutes” interview comment that the pandemic was “over.”
“Yet despite all the advances we’ve made in our fight against the virus and the victorious declaration by our Chief Executive, this administration insists the national emergency declaration remain in place,” Marshall said.
The Biden administration said it would veto the resolution, noting in a statement of policy yesterday:
The national emergency enables the Administration to more effectively respond to COVID-19, including ensuring that necessary supplies are promptly available to respond to the virus and facilitating the delivery of health care at a time when our health system has been under tremendous and prolonged stress.