President Biden received his fourth dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday after announcing the launch of the COVID.gov news site – as he urged Congress to spend billions of dollars in new pandemic funding.
Biden smiled and said the injection was “wonderful,” in response to a shouted question from the press.
“I always thought it discouraged people from getting vaccinated when they watched people get a needle in their arm,” Biden added. “So I apologize for being discouraged. But it didn’t hurt me a bit. »
The president got his fourth shot after delivering remarks insisting that ‘we are now in a new moment in this pandemic’ which ‘means that COVID-19 no longer controls our lives’ – echoing a line which he first used nearly a year ago before the Delta and Omicron variants emerged.
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved a second ‘booster’ vaccine for people aged 50 and over, but Biden warned there may not be enough for the general public if the age threshold is lowered. .
“If Congress doesn’t act, we won’t have the supply we need this fall to ensure the shots are freely available, easily accessible to all Americans,” Biden said. “Worse still, if we need a different vaccine in the future to fight a new variant, we won’t have enough money to buy it. We cannot allow this to happen.
COVID-19 cases and deaths have declined significantly in most parts of the country after the highly contagious but less deadly variant of Omicron caused a record number of infections in January. The United States, however, is on course to cross 1 million deaths from the virus in April.
The Biden administration is at odds with Senate Republicans who want to reallocate unspent $350 billion in state and local aid money, which was part of a larger $1.9 trillion bill dollars that Democrats passed without any GOP support last year.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Monday his department is cutting monoclonal antibody shipments to states by 35% to reserve supplies — after he threatened to cancel AstraZeneca’s Evusheld vaccine orders which are taken before catching the virus to reduce its severity.
Biden’s launch of COVID.gov was the initial billing for his Wednesday remarks. The injection was added to the agenda about two hours before Biden was due to speak.
The new site allows users to search for US counties, with results showing the local level of community transmission and links to other sites for information on how to order tests, masks, vaccine doses and treatments.
A White House official touted the site as a “one-stop website to help everyone in the United States get even better access to lifesaving tools like vaccines, tests, treatments, and masks, as well as to get the latest updates on COVID-19 in their area.
The administration has insisted for weeks that it is running out of money to deal with the pandemic. Republicans say that with inflation at its highest level in 40 years, funds should be diverted from existing appropriations.
White House officials say the standoff means the end of federal subsidies for COVID-19 hospital treatment for the uninsured, which means health care companies will have to absorb those costs, as is the standard for other treatment for the uninsured.
It’s unclear whether the Biden administration would actually allow some COVID-19 programs to end — particularly funding for vaccine purchases, which cost the government far less than the $22.5 billion funding request submitted to Congress. .
The Trump administration purchased 500 million doses of the two-dose vaccine from Pfizer in 2020 for $10 billion. The Biden administration in September ordered 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to donate to other countries for $3.5 billion.
Presidents are able to redirect certain federal funds through emergency powers. For example, President Donald Trump in 2019 declared a national emergency to redirect nearly $7 billion in defense and drug enforcement funds to build a US-Mexico border wall after Congress balked at his request.
Although Congress has spent about $5 trillion on COVID-19 relief, most of the funds have gone to offset the economic impact of the virus. Only $482 billion was spent on health care, according to a recent New York Times analysis.
“My guess is that of the $1.9 trillion sent in March , [Biden] should be able to find $30 billion from that figure,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who is leading the GOP pushback.
“I think we need to figure out — and we’ve asked the administration — how much unspent money is there,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said this month. “There are billions of dollars unspent.”