The White House said Wednesday it is cutting funds from some areas of its COVID-19 response in order to shift money to vaccines and treatments, given that new funding remains stalled in Congress.
The administration is cutting money from areas like testing and research on next-generation vaccines in order to move that into buying more vaccines and treatments.
In the shift, $5 billion will go towards buying updated vaccines for the fall, $4.9 billion will go towards buying an additional 10 million courses of the Pfizer treatment Paxlovid and $300 million will go to buying more monoclonal antibody treatments.
The White House lamented that it had to cut some areas of its response, saying that Congress should simply provide the funding needed.
Even with the shift in funds, there will still not be enough money to buy updated vaccines for all Americans for the fall, unless Congress provides more funding, the White House said.
“Due to a lack of additional funding, HHS is now forced to pull funds from other essential elements of our response to meet some basic COVID-19 response needs,” a White House official said. “This will allow the U.S to get in line to procure some additional lifesaving vaccines for the fall, including next-generation vaccines if available, and procure additional lifesaving treatments. We will still not have the resources needed to secure enough vaccines for all Americans who may want them this fall.”
The White House warned that the cuts it is forced to make will hurt domestic testing manufacturing capacity, and will cut investments in research and development of more effective types of vaccines, such as “pan-coronavirus” vaccines that work against multiple variants of the virus.
The White House has been warning for months that it needs more funding from Congress, but the $22.5 billion request remains stalled on Capitol Hill, with little sign of movement.
Republicans have long said that they do not see the need for new funds as urgent. They have also demanded a vote on reinstating a Trump-era policy at the southern border, known as Title 42, as part of any funding deal, which Democrats have so far been unwilling to give.
There are also disagreements over how to pay for the funding. Republicans say the new spending must be paid for by repurposing the billions provided in previous relief bills.
Asked last month if he would allow a vote on reinstating Title 42 in order to get COVID-19 funding moving, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) deflected by telling reporters, “We’ll see what the House sends over.”
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday the problem is getting 60 votes in the Senate, and that the House passing the funding first would not “magically” solve the Senate’s problem.
“The Senate needs to get this done,” he said.