WH Officials: There's No Money for 4th Doses for All

...unless Congress approves $15B in emergency funding for COVID response
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2022 11:00 AM CDT
WH Officials: There's No Money for 4th Doses for All
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/SeventyFour)

(Newser) – If you're 65 and older and awaiting your second COVID booster shot, or have kids under 5 who you hope can soon receive their initial vaccine, administration officials tell the Washington Post there are enough doses at the ready for when those approvals come in. For everyone else, though, additional boosters may have to wait. The White House says the pandemic piggy bank for more coronavirus vaccines, testing, personal protective equipment, and treatment is tapped out. The Post's sources say no advance vaccine orders can be placed unless Congress gives the green light to a $15 billion funding initiative, which is mired in what CNN describes as a "monthslong stalemate."

"Right now, we don't have enough money for fourth doses, if they're called for," the White House's new coronavirus czar, Jeff Zients, said in a recent In the Bubble podcast. There's also no money to pay for a "variant-specific vaccine" should one be needed in the future, Zients added. Health officials and federal regulators haven't yet weighed in on whether a fourth shot is even needed for the entire US population, but the Post's sources note it's still "imperative" that the hundreds of millions of doses be ordered ahead of time anyway, or other nations will jump in line ahead of us. Japan, Colombia, and Vietnam are among those nations said to have placed their advance orders or be gearing up to. Chile, meanwhile, has already started administering its fourth doses.

Zients and Shalanda Young, the new head of the Office of Management and Budget, sent a letter last week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterating the need for the emergency funding "to avoid severe disruptions to our COVID response" (NPR explains more on the holdup in Congress). The CDC says 65% of Americans are fully vaccinated, while just under 30% have received their first booster. Pfizer and partner BioNTech last week filed for emergency authorization of a second booster for those 65 and older, while Moderna is seeking the same for all American adults. Doses for kids under 5 still await the OK from federal regulators before those companies can advance with their plans on that front. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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