RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With adults 50 and over potentially becoming eligible this week for a second COVID-19 booster shot, a Biden administration official said Monday a battle over funding could hinder the government’s ability to roll out additional vaccine doses to all Americans if needed.
Members of Congress have not agreed on a funding request the administration made for additional funding for ongoing COVID-19 response.
“Especially as we head toward the fall, the likelihood is we wouldn’t have sufficient doses that we’ve already purchased to cover boosters, or fourth shots, for everyone. So, just another one of the realities of the lack of additional COVID funding,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, senior advisor to the White House COVID-19 response team.
President Joe Biden has called for Congress to approve additional funding to help with testing, treatments, vaccinations and a variety of other measures as the nation continues to deal with the pandemic. He initially requested $22.5 billion from Congress in new funding.
That was eventually pared down to $15.6 billion amid negotiations between Republicans and Democrats, but later it was pulled from a spending package that Congress passed earlier this month, according to the Hill.
“We’ve said for months now we had sufficient doses of vaccines for everyone to get their first and second shot of an mRNA vaccine and also to get a booster. When we talk about fourth shots, that’s where we start to run into some limitations,” said Dr. Webb.
Republican senators, including North Carolina’s Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, signed a letter sent to President Biden in early March questioning the need for the additional funding when Congress already had approved nearly $6 trillion in spending. They asked for a “full accounting” of how that money has been spent and noted that some of it still available.
“It’s kind of a false argument. The reality is that when you’re talking about preparedness, when you’re talking about fighting in a really large-scale fight like we are against COVID-19, you’re going to need resources,” said Webb.
Dr. David Weber, professor of medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, said with waning immunity and given that some people got their first booster more than six months ago, he thinks recommending an additional shot to those 50+ is the right step.
“It’s clear that the major benefit to vaccines and therapies are to older individuals, so I think that’s a very reasonable place to start,” Dr. Weber said. “And, given the waning of immunity over time from vaccines, natural disease and the rise of subvariants with some escape from vaccines, ultimately yes I do think that all individuals will need an extra dose.”
While the omicron subvariant has led to a rise in cases overseas, Weber said while cases could increase here again he doubts it will be on the scale of what North Carolina experienced during the delta and omicron surges.