The Biden administration’s plan to spend billions of dollars on free COVID tests and vaccines has sparked criticism from various quarters, who accuse the president of wasting money and resources on a pandemic that is no longer an emergency.
Free tests for all?
The latest announcement from the White House is that it will spend $600 million on free at-home COVID tests, which will be delivered to anyone who requests them online. The move is intended to increase testing capacity and accessibility, as well as to reassure the public amid the surge of the Omicron variant.
However, many experts and commentators have questioned the need and effectiveness of this initiative, arguing that COVID is now just another background illness that does not require mass testing. They point out that tests are already widely available and affordable, and that most people who get infected with COVID have mild or no symptoms and can recover at home.
Moreover, they warn that the free tests could create a false sense of security and encourage risky behavior, such as traveling or gathering without masks or social distancing. They also note that the tests have a limited shelf life and could end up being wasted or unused.
One of the critics of the free test plan is Ron Klain, the former chief of staff of President Biden, who tweeted that the president “had to take from other vital health needs” to fund the initiative, after Congress refused to approve new spending for it. Klain suggested that the money could have been better spent on improving the health care system, expanding access to treatment, or addressing other public health issues.
More vaccines than needed?
The free test plan is not the only COVID-related spending that has drawn fire from the critics. The Biden administration has also ordered hundreds of millions of doses of new vaccines and boosters, which are supposed to offer better protection against the emerging variants of the virus.
However, some scientists and health officials have raised doubts about the necessity and safety of these new jabs, which have not been fully tested or approved by the regulators. They argue that the existing vaccines are still effective and safe, and that there is no evidence that boosters are needed for most people.
They also warn that the new vaccines could have unknown side effects or interactions with the previous ones, and that they could undermine the global vaccine equity and solidarity, by diverting doses and resources from the countries that need them most.
According to some reports, the US has already stockpiled more than a billion doses of COVID vaccines, most of which will expire unused, just as it happened a year ago. The US has also faced criticism for not sharing enough of its surplus vaccines with the rest of the world, especially the low- and middle-income countries that are struggling to vaccinate their populations.
COVID theater or COVID reality?
The Biden administration has defended its COVID spending as a necessary and prudent response to the evolving situation, and as a way to prepare for the worst-case scenarios. The president has said that he is following the advice of the scientists and the public health experts, and that he is doing everything he can to save lives and end the pandemic.
However, some observers have accused the president of engaging in COVID theater, or overreacting to the threat of the virus, in order to distract from his other political and economic problems, such as inflation, crime, immigration, and the stalled legislative agenda. They claim that the president is ignoring the reality of COVID, which is that it is no longer a deadly or disruptive force, but a manageable and endemic one.
They urge the president to stop the COVID spending spree, and to focus on the recovery and the reopening of the country, instead of imposing more restrictions and mandates. They also call for the end of the COVID fearmongering, and for the promotion of the COVID resilience and optimism.