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White House stresses need for new COVID funding as fall booster campaign rolls out: ‘Congress has not stepped up’

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington
Susan Walsh/Associated Press
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington.

White House officials on Tuesday reiterated calls for new COVID-19 response funding to be approved by Congress as the fall vaccination campaign begins, with officials warning that there are currently not enough resources to respond should a new surge emerge.

White House officials like COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra praised the newly authorized variant-specific booster as safe and effective.

Joined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and President Biden’s chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci, the officials said the updated vaccines would soon become widely available to most of the U.S. in the coming weeks.

“By the end of this week, over 90 percent of Americans will live within five miles of these new updated vaccines,” Becerra said. The proximity and availability of the COVID-19 boosters can be searched for on vaccines.gov.

Becerra, however, remained vague on whether there are enough updated vaccine doses available for whoever wants one when asked about the lack of new funding. The White House previously warned that additional boosters and variant-specific vaccines would not be available for everyone if new funding was not approved by Congress.

The White House cut funds from other areas of the COVID-19 response earlier this year in order to continually fund treatments and vaccines.

Becerra said the possibility of going into the fall and winter without vaccines for Americans was “unacceptable.”

“We will not have tests in our Strategic National Stockpile should we see another omicron like event,” Becerra said. “We had promised the American people we would make sure that we did not get into that, but we needed Congress to step up. Congress has not stepped up.”

“And so while we may have the vaccines today for folks for this fall vaccine effort, we don’t know what’s coming next,” Becerra said. We don’t know what the next generation of vaccine will look like if we don’t have the resources to continue that research going.”

A senior White House official said last week the administration will be requesting an additional $22.4 billion to fund the COVID-19 response along with roughly $4 billion to respond to the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.

“Without additional funding, we will have to make more difficult decisions,” the administration official said.

Jha noted during the briefing that it is “always more expensive” to respond to a new development like the omicron wave last winter than it is to prepare in advance. He predicted that if another surge of coronavirus cases comes, then Congress would likely pass another round of funding.

“It will cost the American taxpayer twice as much and will be less effective. One of the reasons to be prepared and to be on the front footing … and to be looking around the corner is it’s much more effective and it’s much more cost efficient,” Jha said.

Tags Anthony Fauci Ashish Jha Biden booster shot COVID-19 funding Rochelle Walensky white house Xavier Becerra
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