The White House says the government will ramp up gene mapping of coronavirus samples from around the country, seeking critically important information on where more infectious and potentially deadlier mutations may be spreading.
Watch the briefing in the video player above.
Officials said Wednesday that the administration is spending $200 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and contract labs to increase genomic sequencing to about 25,000 samples a week, or three times more.
On a parallel track, a U.S. Army biodefense institute will increase coronavirus gene mapping to 10,000 samples a week by the end of the month, up from about 4,000.
The effort is a first step toward a much more ambitious genomic sequencing program.
Legislation advancing in the House as part of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief bill would spend $1.75 billion to scale up sequencing, while directing the CDC to set up a national infrastructure for sharing the information developed.
The nation is in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible as a variant first detected in the United Kingdom spreads more broadly.
The so-called UK variant is seen as more easily transmissible and causing more severe COVID-19 illness.
The White House also says drugmaker Johnson & Johnson has just a “few million” doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in inventory ready to be distributed, should the Food and Drug Administration grant it emergency approval.
Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients is looking to lower expectations for the impact of approval for the promising, one-dose vaccine, which could happen in the next several weeks.
The company has contracted to provide 100 million doses – enough for 100 million Americans – by the end of June.
Zients said, “We’re going to be started only with a few million of inventory.”
He added the Biden administration is working to expedite the vaccine deliveries as much as possible.