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US diverts COVID-19 funds to secure vaccines amid standoff

WASHINGTON – That’s what the Biden administration said on Wednesday a funding crisis is forcing it to divert more than $10 billion in coronavirus aid funds from test procurement and other efforts while trying to raise money to secure the next generation of vaccines and treatments for some high-risk Americans.

The White House said it had “no choice” but to reduce orders Rapid home tests which have supported a domestic manufacturing base for the simple diagnostic tests. It’s also cutting funding for research and development of new COVID-19 vaccines and capping personal protective equipment orders to keep some stocks of vaccines and treatments for Americans ahead of winter.

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Even then, the Democratic government says, there will only be enough money to provide treatments and vaccines to some people. It called on Congress to act to provide enough money to secure cans for anyone who might want or need them.

“The government must act because Congress is not doing it,” the White House said in a statement. “These compromises that we are being forced to make because of Congress will have serious implications for the development of next-generation vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity, PPE stockpiling, and the procurement of tests and testing supplies for federally qualified individuals have and community health centers.”

The White House said the “unacceptable” compromises were due to inaction by Congress.

It wasn’t immediately clear what vaccines and treatments the administration planned to secure with the limited funds — including whether the administration is placing orders for potential multivalent vaccines that would protect against both the original COVID-19 strain and provide targeted protection some variants. The White House also didn’t say how many doses of vaccines would be purchased, citing contractual requirements for a lack of clarity.

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The government said Wednesday movements would shift $5 billion to buy COVID-19 vaccine doses for the fall, $4.9 billion for 10 million Paxlovid oral antiviral treatment courses and $300 million to purchase additional monoclonal antibody treatments.

The Biden administration has for months warned of the potential for rationing and other harsh compromises if Congress fails to act to provide additional funding, saying it would cost lives as people’s immunity to booster doses or from previous infections wanes.

Lawmakers appeared close to a $10 billion deal in March the $22.5 billion requested by President Joe Biden, but negotiations broke down over Biden’s plans to end pandemic-related public health restrictions at US borders, which severely curtailed migration. Though the move was blocked by a federal judge, lawmakers appear no closer to reaching an agreement.

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The White House has said if it doesn’t act quickly to secure vaccines, other nations will take their own places ahead of the US. That would reverse the trend of the US being among the first nations, if not the first, to commercialize vaccines and life-saving COVID-19 treatments like Paxlovid.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/08/us-diverts-covid-19-funds-to-secure-vaccines-amid-stalemate/ US diverts COVID-19 funds to secure vaccines amid standoff

Sarah Y. Kim

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