Biden administration warns of impacts to updated vaccine production as it pushes lawmakers for more Covid funding

The warning comes as scientists are working to develop new vaccines that would offer additional protection from infection and severe illness from new variants. The US Food and Drug Administration will make a decision as soon as June on an updated new vaccine, senior administration official told CNN on Monday, based on data from manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer.

That vaccine would be used in the fall and winter, the official said, but warned there will not be resources to procure and distribute a bivalent vaccine — a vaccine that would combine a currently approved vaccine with an Omicron-specific vaccine, for example — without additional funding from Congress.

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha confirmed White House warnings Sunday that the US could potentially see 100 million Covid-19 infections this fall and winter. And Jha has been communicating that message directly to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the senior administration official said, as he makes the case to members in both parties and both chambers of Congress for the $22.5 billion in funding the White House has been advocating for months.

Jha has had more meetings with Republicans than Democrats so far, the senior official said, as Congress remains entangled in disagreement about if and how to proceed with the $22.5 billion funding request. Last month, negotiators were able to reach an agreement on a scaled-back $10 billion package, but Congress left Washington in April without passing that bipartisan bill amid a disagreement over the Title 42 immigration policy — a pandemic-era rule that allowed migrants to be returned immediately to their home countries citing a public health emergency.

Jha’s meetings on Capitol Hill began after the Easter recess but have yet to produce a deal. His message in those meetings: a future wave will affect all Americans, regardless of party.

The projections of 100 million potential US Covid-19 infections, the senior official said, are median estimates for infections from October through February or March, projected through both internal White House models and conversations with experts, but the official was unable to say which models the White House is specifically using. That number is an average projection of what would happen without any major new variants and without the additional resources from Congress for testing, treatments and vaccines.

The officials also expressed concern about the virus’ current trajectory as infections are rising across the country, driven by the BA.2 and the BA.2.12.1 variants. While there is some optimism that the virus’ surge in the Northeast region of the US did not lead to a significant rise in hospitalizations and deaths, this part of the country has a higher level of vaccinations and booster shots compared with other regions. As infections rise in areas with less protections, there could be more hospitalizations and deaths.

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