A White House official said Wednesday that the lack of additional funding from Congress for the federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic is forcing the administration to make “unacceptable tradeoffs” as it maneuvers to acquire new, more powerful vaccines in the fall.
“Due to a lack of additional funding," the official told CNN, the Department of Health and Human Services “is now forced to pull funds from other essential elements of our response to meet some basic Covid-19 response needs. This will allow the US to get in line to procure some additional lifesaving vaccines for the fall, including next-generation vaccines if available, and procure additional lifesaving treatments.”
The official said that even with the reshuffling of funds, the administration will not have enough money to acquire all of the vaccines, treatments and equipment that may be needed in the fall.
Last week, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters that he is worried about what could happen later this year. “If you want to [know] what keeps me awake at night, it is that we are going to run out of vaccines,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to have enough of the next generation of vaccines. We’re going to run out of treatments. And we’re going to run out of diagnostic tests, probably in the late fall into winter, if we end up having a significant surge of infections.”
The bottom line: The White House requested $22.5 billion to fund its efforts to combat Covid-19, which lawmakers slashed to $10 billion. But that smaller package has stalled in Congress amid fights over funding sources and border policies, and there’s no clear timeline on when lawmakers might take it up again.