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By Vivek H. Murthy and David A. Kessler
Dr. Murthy is the U.S. surgeon general. Dr. Kessler is the chief science officer for the U.S. Covid-19 Response Team.
Over the last two years, the United States has made extraordinary progress in the fight against Covid-19. That progress is now threatened by Congress’s failure to fund the continuing Covid-19 response effort. The federal government is running out of funds to provide Americans, especially those who are uninsured, with Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. Our efforts to sustain other critical elements of the public health response, from Covid-19 surveillance to the global vaccination campaign, are also now at risk.
If adequate funding is provided, our country will be in a position of strength, well situated to manage Covid-19 and to adapt our response as future variants emerge. If the funding does not materialize, we will find ourselves in a far weaker position, struggling to keep up with a constantly evolving virus that will continue to threaten our health, our economy and our peace of mind.
In our current roles as U.S. surgeon general and chief science officer for the U.S. Covid-19 Response, we have helped coordinate the United States’ fight against the coronavirus. Until recently, we’ve had the funding to make sure that there will be enough vaccines and antiviral drugs to meet the nation’s needs. Now, for the first time, we cannot order enough vaccines to provide boosters for all Americans if a fourth dose is deemed necessary in the fall. If we need variant-specific vaccines, we will not have the funds to secure them, deliver them or administer them.
Last week, we were forced to cut our shipments of lifesaving monoclonal antibodies to states by 35 percent — and we anticipate running out of monoclonal antibodies later this spring. We will not be able to continue making home tests available, and the critical surveillance efforts that help us anticipate new waves and variants will be compromised.
When it comes to funding, timing matters. Manufacturers cannot turn the production of vaccines, treatments and tests on and off like a switch. Purchases have to be made months in advance if we want supplies to be available when we need them.
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