US expects to soon run out of government Covid-19 funds for vaccines, treatments
The US government is sounding the alarm that coming up later this year and in 2023, it won’t be able to pay for Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and prophylactics moving forward, and these products will transition to the commercial market.
While the US will dole out about 170 million of the upcoming bivalent boosters for free this fall and winter, starting as early as January 2023, the Biden administration anticipates “no longer having federal funds to purchase or distribute vaccines and will need to transition these activities to the commercial market,” Dawn O’Connell, HHS’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, wrote in a blog post yesterday.
The drop-off in payments comes as Congress couldn’t get its act together to pass additional funding related to Covid-19, as Republicans previously called on HHS to repurpose money that it already received in prior spending packages. But Senate Dems late last month proposed $22 billion in 2023 emergency supplemental funding for the next phase of the pandemic, including $16 billion to support the R&D, manufacturing, purchase and distribution of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and other medical countermeasures.
As far as when these transitions to the commercial market may occur, on the therapeutic side, where Eli Lilly’s bebtelovimab already transitioned earlier this month, the remaining federal supply of AstraZeneca’s preventative treatment Evusheld (about 750,000 courses of the 1.5 million ordered remain) as soon as early 2023, followed by Merck’s oral antiviral Lagevrio (about 2.5 million courses remain) sometime in Q1 or Q2 of next year, and Pfizer’s Paxlovid (7.3 million courses ordered by states of the total US order for 20 million courses) in mid-2023.
HHS yesterday convened a meeting of more than 100 representatives from state and local governments, health care providers, insurers, pharma companies, patient advocates, and more, to discuss the pathway to commercialization for both vaccines and therapeutics.
“During the meeting, we discussed our shared goals of transitioning these products in a way that ensures continued equitable access for all Americans and prepares us for whatever may come next with this virus that has been anything but predictable,” O’Connell said.
But all hope isn’t lost that Congress may find some agreement on additional funds for Covid vaccines and therapeutics. Two top Republican senators this week urged the Biden administration to put together a plan for the next wave of vaccine R&D.
Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who’s retiring this year, and James Inhofe of Oklahoma asked Biden to submit to Congress a “concrete proposal” to establish an Operation Warp Speed 2.0 by the end of the year