Biden admin abandoned work on a mass COVID-19 testing plan because it thought it could vaccine its way out of the pandemic, report says
The Biden admin wanted to expand access to COVID tests earlier this year, The Washington Post said.
But it pivoted to vaccinations, thinking tests were less important, the report said.
Now, the White House is scrambling to get tests amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
President Joe Biden's administration abandoned plans to roll out mass COVID-19 testing early this year, thinking vaccinations were the best way to end the pandemic, The Washington Post reported.
The Biden administration is trying to ramp up testing across the US in light of the highly infectious Omicron variant, which has affected unvaccinated people, as well as those who were vaccinated or had received booster shots.
But in the early months of the Biden presidency, the administration made COVID-19 testing a priority as it thought testing was the best way to stop the spread of the virus, current and former US officials told The Post.
Officials were particularly keen on widespread PCR testing as there was greater doubt over the accuracy of rapid antigen tests at the time, the officials told The Post.
A report led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released on January 1, found that rapid antigen tests were substantially less accurate than PCR tests.
But the Biden administration's focus on testing was replaced by a focus on vaccines after modeling at the time showed that vaccines were the best way to drive down infections, The Post said.
"They were like, 'Great. We can vaccine our way out of this thing, so we don't need so many tests,'" a former transition official told The Post.
The Post also reported, citing senior administration officials, that a group of US health officials told the White House this spring that it should buy millions of rapid COVID-19 testing kits, predicting a rise in price and demand. But the White House didn't act on their recommendation, The Post reported.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Biden said on Tuesday that his administration would provide Americans with 500 million free COVID-19 tests from January.
But The New York Times reported that the White House hadn't signed any contracts for them.
The US is also experiencing a shortage of COVID-19 tests. During a media appearance on Wednesday, Biden said he wished he'd thought about ordering half a billion tests two months ago.
When the Biden administration pivoted from tests to vaccines in early 2021, officials estimated that the pandemic would fade out if 75% of Americans got vaccinated, The Post said.
As of Thursday, 61.7% of Americans were fully vaccinated, CDC data indicated.
Though vaccines are considered one of the best forms of protection against the coronavirus, many fully vaccinated people have reported cases, though early data suggested that vaccines still warded off severe disease.
A CDC chart published on Monday showed that the Omicron variant accounted for 73% of new US cases reported in the week ending December 18.
Biden has repeatedly urged Americans to get vaccinated. On Tuesday, he said it was a "patriotic duty" and "an obligation to your country."
"Almost everyone who has died from COVID-19 in the past many months has been unvaccinated," he said.
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