Will it be ‘every state for themselves’ as the federal COVID cash dries up?

COVID Vaccine
Posted at 3:22 PM, Jun 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-12 16:22:25-04

WASHINGTON (KANSAS REFLECTOR) — State and local health departments remain in limbo over whether they’ll need to single-handedly fund their own COVID-19 vaccines and treatments as a stalemate in Congress drags into its fourth month.

The Biden administration has raised alarm bells about the risk of inaction after sending Congress a request for $22.5 billion in early March. But U.S. lawmakers have been unable to pass two bipartisan agreements and no negotiations are underway at the moment, even as cases increase nationwide and the potential remains for a big wave of infections this winter.

That has left state and local health departments wondering if they’ll need to try to bid against each other and even compete with other nations to purchase tests, treatments and vaccines — a costly endeavor that many aren’t sure they could afford.

“If we get to a place where it’s every state for themselves, that’s gonna cause major problems,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

“If you live in New York or California, you’ll have very good access to these things. If you live in a Southern state or a Midwestern state that is less wealthy, then it’s going to be a real problem for those people,” Plescia said. 

“And ultimately that has a bearing on all of us, because we are one nation, and we travel around, and we really have to look out for all of the states.”

State and local health departments have put significant financial resources into fighting COVID-19, but so far the federal government has shouldered the cost of free vaccines and therapeutics as well as a now-defunded program to provide health care for uninsured people with the virus. The federal government is also providing free tests.

Coronavirus Resources and Information

Johns Hopkins global coronavirus tracker