White House Covid-19 Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha announced that the Biden administration will stop paying for COVID tests, vaccines, and treatments as early as this fall.
“My hope is that in 2023, you’re going to see the commercialization of almost all of these products. Some of that is actually going to begin this fall, in the days and weeks ahead. You’re going to see commercialization of some of these things,” Jha said at an event sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation on Tuesday.
He stated that the transition to commercialization of COVID treatments, tests, and vaccines will begin as soon as the coming weeks and months but will be more visible in 2023. He also expects the transition to be difficult.
“Right now, everybody can walk into a CVS and get a vaccine. I want to make sure that when we make this transition, we don’t end up at a point where nobody can get a vaccine because we didn’t get the transition right,” he said.
Tests, vaccines, and treatment would be moved into the normal healthcare system, with patients needing to visit their doctor or a hospital to receive a vaccine or treatment.
The issue comes down to funding. In April, Congress appeared close to a $10 billion COVID funding plan, but it stalled at the last minute after Republicans insisted the bill include the reinstatement of Title 42, a supposed “public health measure” applied by former President Trump in the early days of the pandemic. It was ostensibly designed to reduce the spread of COVID in the United States by preventing asylum seekers from entering the US while waiting for their cases to be heard.
In response, the Biden administration began to shift funds away from testing and treatment and into developing next-generation vaccines.
Last month, Senate Democrats introduced a bill to provide more COVID funding but it was quickly shot down by Republicans.
In April, Democrats wanted military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine to be tied to a COVID funding bill to ensure its passage. But by early May, the administration backed off on that and signaled that Congress could do both separately. More than $50 billion in aid has been sent to Ukraine this year; no significant COVID funding bills have made it through Congress since the American Rescue Plan Act was passed in March 2021.
“It will be the first priority, the second priority and the third priority [of the Biden administration] — to deal with COVID,” Biden told The New York Times in December 2020.
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