Subsidized COVID Testing, Treatments, and Vaccines May End Soon
March 23, 2022 – This week, the federal government will start cutting the amount of COVID-19 drugs it supplies to the states. Treatments and vaccines are needed to contain the pandemic. And doctors will no longer be paid to care for the uninsured due to COVID-19 as the country runs out of money to buy critical tests.
White House already warned that without an additional $22.5 billion in emergency funding, its fight against COVID-19 will be seriously hampered. But Congress has been unable to agree on finding the money to pay for dwindling supplies of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
The inaction is causing the Biden administration and public health officials to throw up their hands in frustration and fear. The US will not be prepared for the next wave of infections. Medicines and vaccines may soon have to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket to fight the virus. And that means Americans who used to rely on free or primarily free tests.
“We’re worried about this because we’ve finally reached the point. Where we’re much more optimistic and better prepared to move forward,” says Marcus Plescia, MD. Chief medical officer of the Association of States and Territories. Health officials. “This funding issue could undermine the whole thing,” he says. “They have to solve this problem.”
He says the federal government has informed state officials that starting this week. It will cut its supply of monoclonal antibody treatments by more than 30%. State health departments are key distribution points for antibody therapy.
Sotrovimab is the most commonly used antibody treatment as it is the only antibody therapy effective against the Omicron variant. USA bought Sotrovimab worth $1 billion in November, and another 600,000 doses were purchased in January.
The US can buy more. Plescia said, but it can’t without more funding, meaning other countries with the money will move up in line.
Antibody therapies have always been a challenge – from getting them to people at the right time to set up infusion centers – and now most of them don’t work against Omicron. But those concerns are “mitigated by the fact that we have these amazing, potent antivirals,” Plescia says.
These include Paxlovid, Evusheld, and Molnupiravir. The government will not be able to buy more pills beyond the 20 million it already has. But the White House has said that without additional funding.
The federal government also planned to procure the unique drug Evusheld on March 31 to make it available to people with weakened immune systems to prevent COVID-19. The White House said it takes at least 6 months to complete the drug. So if the purchase doesn’t go through, there won’t be enough left for those most vulnerable to infection later this year.
All antiviral drugs, which need to be taken over several days, cost between $500 and $700 per course, according to GoodRx.
A fourth COVID-19 shot – for all Americans if the CDC recommended another shot. Pfizer is looking for The FDA has approved the fourth shot for Americans over 65, and Moderna is seeking it for all adults. The White House also said it would not have enough money to buy boosters.
The FDA Advisory Committee
The FDA Advisory Committee will meet on April 6 to weigh the pros and cons of a fourth booster.
Meanwhile, other countries have begun offering the fourth shot. It raises the possibility that the US won’t be able to buy more doses. Drug manufacturers produce the vaccine in response to purchase contracts.
The federal government is also subsidizing the production of COVID-19 tests. These efforts will end in June, which means a potential shortage in the second half of the year. The White House said that without additional funding.
Starting Tuesday, the federal government also stopped accepting applications from doctors. Other health care providers ask for reimbursement for the testing and treatment they provide to uninsured patients. And starting April 5, the program will stop accepting applications from doctors seeking vaccination coverage.
Physicians are thought to be critical to convincing more Americans to get vaccinated. Because they are the most trusted, Plescia says. The White House said it is likely that doctors will turn down the uninsured or be forced to bear the cost, which is not a good outcome.
Finally, the White House said it would not be able to continue to monitor emerging variants adequately. Invest in vaccines designed to work against specific variants. And he will have to cut vaccine purchases for less wealthy countries. Global under-vaccination has helped lead to new options.
“Until we have a virus circulating the world. It will just be a continuous cycle of these potential options,” Plescia says, adding that the US must keep spending to be ready.
“It would be foolish to expect this to be the end of any further pandemic outbreaks because it puts us in a position. We won’t be able to respond if that happens,” he says.