(CNN) — The Biden administration is expected on Wednesday to announce the purchase of additional courses of a Covid-19 treatment manufactured by drugmaker AstraZeneca.
The White House is “in the process of ordering another half-million courses of AstraZeneca’s preventive treatment for immunocompromised individuals,” Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients is expected to say at Wednesday’s Covid-19 briefing.
“The federal government was instrumental in the research and development of this product — and our latest order will also bring us to over one million treatment courses available through the end of March,” Zients is expected to say, per a copy of his remarks obtained by CNN.
The US Food and Drug Administration authorized AstraZeneca’s Evusheld, a drug aimed at helping immune-compromised people from getting infected with the coronavirus, in December. The Covid-19 vaccines worked well for many — but not all — people with suppressed immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to the virus. Evusheld is a monoclonal antibody, and doctors hoped to give it to their immune-compromised patients because it works in a different way than the vaccines.
About 7 million adults in the US are immune-compromised and could benefit from Evusheld, according to AstraZeneca. The federal government, which is the sole distributor of the drug, contracted for only enough doses to treat 700,000 people in December, and Wednesday’s announcement will build on that initial purchase.
Zients will also tout the previously announced purchase of 20 million courses of Pfizer’s antiviral pill, with the first 10 million courses expected to be delivered by the end of June 2022, as part of the administration’s “diverse portfolio” of Covid-19 treatments.
The administration spent much of the past year focused on manufacturing and scaling vaccine supply. But as the Omicron variant continues to spread, with surging cases and hospitalizations, some experts have warned current efforts to surge supply of therapeutics for those who do contract the virus are not enough.
Therapeutics aren’t just being hampered by small supply. Some doctors are warning CNN they are also hampered by a lack of testing to get test results in a timely enough fashion to actually administer doses in the proper window.
Pfizer’s Paxlovid treatment needs to be administered within five days of symptoms, and GlaxoSmithKline’s Sotrovimab monoclonal antibody treatment needs to be administered within seven days. Additionally, some hospitals also say there is simply not enough hospital staff to administer enough monoclonal antibody infusions because of staffing shortages.