President Joe Biden will issue a presidential memorandum on Tuesday directing Becerra to “coordinate a new effort across the federal government to develop and issue the first national interagency investigative action plan on Long Covid.”
“HHS will lead a government-wide interagency coordinating council, which will engage experts from the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration, the Department of Labor and many entities across government to coordinate the work of the public and private sectors to advance our understanding of prolonged Covid, and to accelerate efforts to prevent, detect and treat it,” Becerra said at Tuesday’s Covid response team briefing.
He continued: “In real time, we will be sharing lessons on how to prevent, detect and treat covid for a long time to come. And this coordinated effort will help ensure that our research is directed at the people who need care the most.”
Becerra also announced other actions to provide high-quality care to Americans experiencing prolonged Covid, making services and support available to those individuals and improving the nation’s understanding of prolonged Covid.
The actions will include a $20 million investment through the president’s fiscal year 2023 budget to “investigate how health care systems can better organize and deliver care to people with prolonged Covid, provide tele-mentoring and expert consultation for practices of primary care and advance the development of multispecialty clinics to provide complex care,” a White House fact sheet said. The effort will expand and strengthen clinics, promote provider education and bolster health insurance coverage for long-term Covid care.
The administration is also working to raise awareness of prolonged Covid “as a potential cause of disability” and will ensure people have access to call centers that can provide information and support.
The National Long-Term Covid Research Action Plan, which is part of the presidential memorandum, “will advance our understanding of long-term Covid, foster the development of new treatments and models of care, and inform services, support, and interventions for people experiencing prolonged covid.” There are provisions to expedite enrollment in the RECOVER Initiative, a $1.15 billion National Institutes of Health initiative announced last year that will conduct studies and clinical trials, among other efforts.
These moves come as bipartisan negotiators, led by Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, reached a deal on additional Covid funding, which would provide $10 billion in aid. “paid for reuse of funds” from the Covid relief package passed last year. The Senate could vote on the package as soon as this week.
The bill includes funding for vaccines and therapeutics, as well as testing and research capacity. But notably, it does not include any funding for the global Covid response, short of the initial $22.5 billion requested by the administration. Nor does it replace the program to screen, treat and vaccinate the uninsured.
“We need more for our national response: to keep up with vaccines, to procure monoclonal antibody treatments and antiviral pills, to provide protection for immunocompromised people, and to maintain our testing capacity. And it is a real disappointment that there is no global solution.” funding in this bill,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said during Tuesday’s briefing.
Without such funding for global Covid relief, Zients warned: “We will not have the resources to help get more gunshots to countries in need. We will lack funds to provide oxygen and other life-saving supplies. And our global genome sequencing capabilities will fall.” and will undermine our ability to detect any emerging variants around the world.”
The United States has delivered more than 500 million vaccines to 114 countries, according to the White House, and has pledged to donate 1.2 billion doses abroad. Officials warned of the need to help those shots go into weapons through additional funding for assistance. It is unclear if and when Congress will act to increase aid for these programs. The doses for children ages 5 to 11 will be part of the 1.2 billion vaccines the US has pledged to send abroad and will account for “100 million or more,” according to Zients.
Zients also announced Tuesday that the US will become the first country to donate “tens of millions of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines to low- and lower-middle-income countries free of charge and with no strings attached.”
More than 20 of those countries have asked the US for vaccines for children, Zients said.
“Now we’re ready to answer your call. It’s the right thing to do… Vaccinating more people is one of the best ways to protect people here at home and around the world. Today, we’re making it clear that the United States will continue to leading and pioneering the global effort to vaccinate both adults and children,” said Zients.
In an interview with CNN+ host Chris Wallace, Dr. Anthony Fauci called the lack of funding in the global vaccine bill a “big” problem.
“I’m really disappointed about that. Because what you said is absolutely correct. When you’re dealing with a global pandemic, you have to have a global response. It’s crazy to think that with a global pandemic, you can have a regional response.” ”, Fauci told Wallace.