Over the last two years, the Biden-Harris Administration has made tremendous progress in our ability to manage COVID-19 so that it no longer meaningfully disrupts the way we live our lives. As the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends on May 11, 2023, the Administration has taken significant steps to ensure all individuals have continued access to lifesaving protections such as vaccines, treatments and tests, and that the nation is well prepared to manage the risks of COVID-19 going forward.
The Administration’s COVID-19 strategy during the PHE relied on effectively and equitably implementing the largest adult vaccination program in U.S. history. Beyond vaccines, the Administration has facilitated the availability of and access to widespread testing and treatments, which enabled families to protect themselves, slow the spread of the virus, and ensure that infections, when they occur, are relatively mild. After the COVID-19 PHE ends, access to COVID-19 vaccinations and certain treatments, such as Paxlovid and Lagevrio, will generally not be affected.
Our efforts have not been limited to the United States alone. The U. S. government (USG) has been the largest single donor of vaccines, having shared nearly 700 million doses with 117 countries as of March 2023. The wide availability of vaccinations, tests and treatments – and programs that provide equitable access to these countermeasures – has put the nation and the world in a strong position as we transition out of the emergency phase of our COVID-19 response.
Building on the key investments and infrastructure created over the past two years, the Administration has put various policies and programs in place that will remain after the end of the PHE:
- Access to COVID-19 vaccines provided by the Federal government will not be affected in the months to come. After the transition to the traditional health care market, the HHS Bridge Access Program for COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments will provide broad access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments for uninsured Americans, which has been a critical component of the COVID-19 response. Since January 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration has effectively implemented the largest adult vaccination program in U.S. history, with nearly700 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines given to over 270 million Americans. The Administration’s therapeutics program has also administered over 15 million courses of COVID-19 treatments, including over 10 million courses of free oral antivirals, at over 40,000 locations across the nation, providing more of the oral antiviral Paxlovid than all other nations combined. The HHS Bridge Access Program for COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments will continue to provide access to these critical countermeasures for the uninsured through 2024.
- COVID-19 tests remain accessible and available for all Americans at COVIDTests.gov until the end of May 2023, and USG will continue to provide access for the uninsured through the Increasing Community Access To Testing Program (ICATT). Over the past two years, the Biden-Harris Administration has distributed over 1.2 billion free COVID-19 tests, including over 140 million tests provided to K-12 schools and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and over 250 million tests sent directly to nursing homes to keep seniors safe. The COVIDtests.gov program has distributed over 750 million tests directly to over two-thirds of American households, 310 million of which went to households in high social vulnerability zip codes, further expanding other COVID-19 test distribution partnerships with Feeding America food banks, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development S202 Low-income senior housing sites, Health Resources and Services Administration community health clinics, and United Way. Thanks to strategic investments in the continued procurement of tests and the strategic national stockpile (SNS), over 600 million rapid COVID-19 antigen tests are available to meet demand in the event of future surges. Until the end of May 2023, individuals can continue to order tests for free from COVIDTests.gov.
- Protections that provide patients with greater access to healthcare remain in place. The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declaration for medical countermeasures against COVID-19 has enabled broad access to medical countermeasures by providing flexibilities and protections, including for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines, tests and treatments. By extending certain flexibilities through 2024, the Biden-Harris Administration is providing Americans with more options for when and where to access COVID-19 vaccines and tests, and continuing the Test to Treat programs, which have dramatically improved timely access to life-saving treatments by enabling patients to get tested, evaluated, and receive treatment in one stop.
- Many major telehealth flexibilities will remain in place particularly for those who struggle to find access to care and in rural areas. The vast majority of current Medicare telehealth flexibilities that Americans have come to rely upon over the past two years, will remain in place through December 2024. And states already have significant flexibility with respect to covering and paying for Medicaid services delivered via telehealth.
- The USG will continue to provide Americans with accessible information on local COVID-19 risks and will continue to track emerging variants and their impact in the U.S. and around the world. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) integrates COVID-19 data collection and reporting into its existing structure and programs, data reporting will focus on hospitalizations, deaths, and emergency room visits, which provide the most reliable data in the next phase of the COVID-19 response. CDC will also continue to collect and report wastewater data, and will continue to conduct genomic surveillance and report new variants in the U. S. The Biden-Harris Administration is also continuing its strong support of efforts to enhance global genomic surveillance and associated surveillance networks, to rapidly identify emerging variants, their spread and impact around the world.
- Project Next Gen will accelerate and streamline the rapid development of the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments through public-private collaborations. As SARS-CoV-2 continuously evolves, the Biden-Harris Administration is investing $5 billion for the development of new COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. The program includes a focus on effective mucosal vaccines, such as those delivered through the nose, which could have the potential to dramatically reduce infection and transmission (in addition to preventing serious illness and death); as well as “broader” vaccines which can protect against several different coronaviruses; and more durable monoclonal antibodies that are resistant to new variants.
- The USG will continue to invest in efforts to better understand and address Long COVID, and support Americans affected by it. The Biden-Harris Administration has developed a first-ever interagency National Research Action Plan on Long COVID, organizing the federal government’s over 70 research activities on Long COVID around a common agenda and accelerating efforts to better understand, diagnose, and treat Long COVID. The Administration has invested over $1.1 billion in Long COVID research, surveillance, and to promote evidence-based care models through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The Administration continues its support of Americans affected by lingering symptoms from a COVID-19 infection through these efforts and by working to make Long COVID services, supports and care as accessible as possible.
- Investments on improving indoor air quality (IAQ) will drive innovation in ventilation and filtration, building better protection against respiratory illness. The Biden-Harris Administration has secured historic investments in indoor air quality improvements, including $350 billion for state and local governments as well as $122 billion for schools in American Rescue Plan funding, and established the federal buildings portfolio as an exemplar of innovation. The Administration will continue to lead by example, working with industry partners on science-based guidance on how to improve indoor air quality in schools, workplaces, residential buildings, and healthcare facilities, and implementing a long-term research roadmap that coordinates Federal airborne infection research.