The COVID-19 public health emergency will reportedly continue under the Biden administration through at least April next year. According to Reuters, the emergency was scheduled to end on Jan. 11 but will continue through the first quarter of 2022. The extension will give the government more time to transfer responsibility for COVID-19 vaccines, tests, antiviral treatment, and other COVID-19 pharmaceuticals to the private sector—all of which have been provided free by the government during the health emergency.
The initial emergency declaration was made in January 2020 and has subsequently been extended at 90-day intervals. Although the transition has been slow to get off the ground, the Biden administration gave a hint earlier this year that it would start thinking about how to hand off important tasks to the private sector. In late August, it met with drugmakers, pharmacies, and other healthcare industry stakeholders to discuss how to start the commercialization process.
Due to dwindling government funds for COVID-19, the administration is under pressure to start the process as soon as possible. Dawn O’Connell, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said the government expects to run out of funds by “as early as January 2023” to make vaccine purchases or distributions. She explained, “In fact, additional COVID-19 funding continues to be urgently needed for a range of critical response needs, including the development of next-generation vaccines, therapeutics, and tests.” She added, “there is a need for additional funds from Congress to support the transition to the commercial market.”
As long as the emergency authorization is in effect, the public will probably continue to receive free screenings, shots, and treatments. It is unknown how much COVID-19 tests, medicines, and vaccines will cost following the transition, but Pfizer has already stated it plans to sell its COVID-19 shot with BioNTech for about $110 to $130 for adults. However, most people with health insurance will likely pay a fraction of that cost or nothing at all.