The Biden administration has yet to sign a single contract for the 500 million COVID-19 tests promised, report says




  • In Health
  • 2021-12-23 10:06:15Z
  • By Business Insider
President Joe Biden.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images
President Joe Biden.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images  
  • The White House promised 500 million free COVID-19 tests for Americans on Tuesday.

  • However, no contracts have been signed yet, The New York Times reported Thursday.

  • The website for ordering the tests also won't be live until January, the White House said.

President Joe Biden's administration is yet to sign contracts to buy the 500 million COVID-19 tests the White House promised earlier this week, The New York Times reported.

The White House said Tuesday it was providing the free tests to help Americans stay safe, with Biden saying the country was caught off guard by spiking infections caused by the Omicron variant.

As of Monday, the Omicron variant accounted for 73% of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US officials told The Times that contracts to buy the tests could be finalized as soon as next week.

However, the website that people can use to order the free tests won't be live until January, the White House said.

"Five hundred million tests in January is the largest order we have ever made to date, and we are going to do it as quickly as we can, but they won't be available until January," press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

As infections driven by the Omicron variant spike, pharmacies across the country are selling out of over-the-counter test kits and people are waiting in hourslong lines to get tested.

It is unclear how many free tests people will be able to order in one go, or how long they will take to arrive. US-based COVID-19 test manufacturers are also said to be struggling to keep up with demand.

Experts said that Biden's plan was a good idea in principle, but that the tests need to come soon to have an impact on driving down infections.

"If those tests came in January and February, that could have an impact, but if they are spread out over 10 to 12 months, I'm not sure what kind of impact it is going to have," Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told The Times.

Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, told the Associated Press that speed is of the essence. "We need to pull out all the stops, and we're not doing that still," he said.

Even before Biden's pledge, a number of states had taken it upon themselves to provide free tests to residents.

In November, Maryland made 500,000 free home tests available and Colorado started handing out free home tests in October. Massachusetts also has a free home test program.

Officials in New York said Wednesday the state would soon start shipping millions of free home tests to residents.

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