According to a senior official in the Biden administration, the United States will have to limit the next generation of Covid vaccines this fall to people at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus if Congress does not approve funding for the purchase of the new vaccines.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, warned that the United States faces a substantial wave of Covid infections this fall as immunity from current vaccines wanes and the omicron variant mutates into more transmissible subvariants. The United States needs more money for next-generation vaccines, therapies and tests to prevent infections from turning into hospitalizations and deaths, the official said.
Pfizer Other Modern are developing redesigned vaccines that target omcron variant mutations to increase protection against infections. Current vaccinations still target the original virus strain that first emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019. As the virus has evolved over the past two years, vaccines have become less effective at preventing mild illness, although they generally protect still from serious illnesses.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to make a decision by early summer at the latest on whether the United States should move to redesigned vaccinations for a fall vaccination campaign, with its advisory committee holding a meeting on June 28 to discuss the question.
However, the US currently does not have enough money to buy the new shots for everyone in the US before the fall, the official said. So far the US Senate has failed to spend $ 10 billion in additional Covid funding for vaccines, therapies and tests despite Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Sen Mitt Romney, R-Utah, reaching an agreement in early April. The Senate’s $ 10 billion deal is less than half of the $ 22.5 billion originally requested by the White House.
“We will be able to get some next-generation vaccines, but it will be a very limited amount and really only for people at the highest risk, but it won’t be available to everyone,” the official said. The elderly and people with weak immune systems are the highest risk of serious Covid disease.
Congress must approve funding within the next few weeks to ensure contractual negotiations between the federal government and vaccine manufacturers are well advanced by July, the official said. However, Republicans in the Senate promised to freeze the money unless the White House restores title 42, which allowed the United States to push back asylum seekers to the nation’s borders during the pandemic.
Even if the money comes in, it’s unclear whether vaccine makers can produce enough shots for the fall given the short timeline. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel CNBC last week is a turning point for any biotech company that has been told they have tens of millions of doses ready for the fall if they don’t order supplies and start production before July.
“If you look at the timing, I don’t think any manufacturer will be able to be ready in August to fill the channel with products,” Bancel told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell. The US government’s latest contract for Covid vaccines with Moderna ended in April.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC last week that the pharmaceutical giant will be ready to begin producing doses of its next-generation vaccine as soon as it receives directions from the FDA.
The United States also needs more test money to ensure the nation has sufficient capacity for the fall, the administration official said, warning that domestic manufacturers are shutting down production lines now. Without funding, the US would be dependent on test manufacturers in other nations, particularly China, the official said.
“It will be a pretty tough autumn and winter if Congress abdicates its responsibilities and doesn’t come up with funding for the American people,” the official said. “We will do what we can, but at the end of the day, our hands will be tied.”