US President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the US government won’t be able to afford to provide Americans with the Covid-19 booster shot he received on-camera Wednesday if Congress doesn’t step up to allocate more funding for vaccines, tests, treatments, and other Covid-19 needs.
Warning that the US has reached a “critical turning point” in the fight against the coronavirus, Mr Biden said legislators’ failure to include Covid-19 funding in the 2022 fiscal year appropriations bill he signed earlier this month has already resulted in negative consequences.
He explained that the federal government has had to scale back purchases of life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments and cut the supplies distributed to states.
“Without more funding, we’ll start to run out of them by the end of May,” he said.
While legislators had initially planned to approve more Covid funding in the FY22 omnibus spending bill, that section was stripped out by House and Senate leaders because of fears it could spark a Republican filibuster and bring about a government shutdown.
Mr Biden also said the government has scaled back plans to purchase “preventive therapies” for immunocompromised Americans, which he called “critical tools to protect the most vulnerable among us”.
He said funding for those treatments could run out by fall, and warned that the US will not be able to sustain programs to provide Covid testing past June of this year without an influx of federal funds.
“This isn't partisan, it's medicine,” he said. “If we fail to invest, we leave ourselves vulnerable if another wave of the virus hits”.
Turning to the matter of Covid-19 boosters, the president said the government can fund a fourth Covid-19 shot for persons 50 years of age and older, and called the newly-authorised shot “critical to providing an additional level of protection”.
“If you haven't gotten your first booster, please don't wait. Do it today. Those who are 50 and older as well as those who are immunocompromised can now get it, getting more protection than they have from the initial first doses,” he said.
But Mr Biden warned that the government’s supply won’t hold past the initial 50-and-over eligibility group.
“If Congress fails to act, we won't have the supply we need this fall to ensure the shots are available free, easily accessible for all Americans. Even worse, if we need a different vaccine for the future, to combat a new variant, we're not going to have enough money to purchase it,” he said. “We cannot allow that to happen … we can’t wait to find ourselves in the midst of another surge to act. It’ll be too late”.
“All of us have worked so hard to get our lives back … together, we turned an unthinkable pain into an extraordinary progress and purpose — Americans are back to living their lives again,” Mr Biden said. “We can't surrender that now. Congress, please act — you have to act immediately. The consequences of inaction are severe, they'll only grow with time, but it doesn't have to be that way”.
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