Warning of fall virus wave, Biden seeks $22.4 bn more for Covid

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Warning of "difficult trade-offs" ahead of a feared fall Covid-19 wave, the Biden administration Friday urged Congress to approve $22.4 billion more to maintain key testing and vaccine programs.

The request comes as the government readies a new fall initiative for Covid-19 vaccine boosters targeting the Omicron variant after US officials recommended Thursday new Pfizer and Moderna shots.

Biden's request for more money faces an uncertain fate on Capitol Hill amid pandemic fatigue and elevated partisanship ahead of the midterm elections.

Noting that a previous White House demand for additional Covid-19 funds stalled in Congress, the administration has been forced "to pull existing funding from critical needs to meet the most pressing needs," according to an administration memo ahead of the September 30 end of fiscal year 2022.

The government on Friday suspended its program to provide free at-home Covid-19 testing kits, citing the lack of congressional funding.

The government currently has "some tests available in the stockpile, but we do not have enough if there were a surge this fall," an administration official told reporters on a briefing.

Administration officials also said continued lack of funding would necessitate a transition from government-financed Covid-19 vaccines to a commercial model that would leave out some people.

The latest batch of vaccines will continue to be free to the public "through the fall into next year," an administration official said.

"We were always going to have to transition to commercialization, but we've had to accelerate the timeline without additional funding," the official said, noting the need to provide underinsured and uninsured to "the life saving protection of a vaccine."

Besides Covid-19 programs, the administration sought additional funds to support Ukraine, combat the monkeypox outbreak and address natural disasters in Kentucky, California and other states.

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