As possibility of 4th doses looms, White House says it has no money for them

Federal regulators and health officials are due to assess the need for fourth COVID-19 vaccine doses, which the Biden administration currently lacks the funds to purchase for everyone, the Washington Post reports. 

Second booster shots went from a questioned possibility to a more likely reality last week as drugmakers filed for the FDA's green light for the additional dose. Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an application to the FDA seeking emergency authorization for a second booster shot of their COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and older. Moderna followed suit days later, seeking emergency use authorization of a second booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine for all adults.

"Right now, we don't have enough money for fourth doses, if they're called for," Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said on a forthcoming episode of the podcast "In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt" that was recorded March 21 and shared with the Post. "We don't have the funding, if we were to need a variant-specific vaccine in the future."

If regulators determine fourth doses, or second boosters, are necessary, federal officials have enough doses to cover a fourth shot for Americans age 65 and older and the initial regimen for children under age 5, three officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Post. The officials said they can't place advance orders for additional vaccines for those in other age groups unless lawmakers pass a stalled $15 billion funding package.

If the U.S. aims to have enough doses for a fourth shot for everyone, there are currently not enough doses purchased. "They will run out of supply," Jen Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Post. She estimates that about 750 million additional doses are needed to reach that goal.

The FDA is due to meet April 6 to discuss the country's COVID-19 booster shot strategy, including the timing of boosters for the coming months and when the shots should be updated to target specific variants. The FDA has not scheduled a specific vote nor is it expected to discuss Pfizer or Moderna's recent applications for fourth vaccine doses at the meeting. 

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