Mar 15, 2022 - Health

Feds say they'll ration COVID treatments amid funding standoff

A healthcare worker attaches an IV infusion to a patient's hand during a monoclonal antibody treatment in the parking lot at Wayne Health Detroit Mack Health Center in Detroit in December. Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amid a congressional standoff over COVID funding, the federal government will delay buying "hundreds of thousands" of monoclonal antibody treatments and instead cut state allocations of the drug by 30% starting next week to stretch supplies, senior Biden administration officials said Tuesday.

Why it matters: This is the first time administration officials are threatening pain in the form of cutbacks to the states if Congress doesn't approve new COVID spending.

  • The move is likely to spark criticism from Republicans, who most want these treatments, and have already complained that the administration is holding back some therapies.
  • "Even with these cuts, we anticipate that our supply of monoclonal antibody treatments will run out by late May," a senior administration official said.

Driving the news: The Biden administration is seeking $22.5 billion in immediate emergency funding from Congress it says is critical to maintaining adequate supplies of treatments and to continue providing free testing and vaccines to Americans.

  • The requests for more funding have been met with resistance in Congress, particularly among Republicans, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend.

Between the lines: Congress still is divided over how much funding to allocate and where the money would come from. Meanwhile, there are signs from Europe that another COVID wave may be heading our way.

  • "There is precedence, including in the prior administration multiple times to provide direct COVID response funding on a bipartisan basis without offsets," a senior administration official said. "We hope and expect we should be able to rely on that precedence moving forward.”
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