STAT is reporting a ‘scandal’:
The Trump administration quietly took around $10 billion from a fund meant to help hospitals and health care providers affected by Covid-19 and used the money to bankroll Operation Warp Speed contracts, four former Trump administration officials told STAT.
The NYTimes tried to create a similar scandal back in June when it reported on a diversion of funds to OWS from lung treatment research.
Coronavirus Attacks the Lungs. A Federal Agency Just Halted Funding for New Lung Treatments.
The shift, quietly disclosed on a government website, highlights how the Trump administration is favoring development of vaccines over treatments for the sickest patients.
My response at the time and today is the same. Good! The real scandal is why Congress never put big funding behind Operation Warp Speed–thus requiring the administration to fund OWS by surreptitiously cutting elsewhere. The Trump administration gets blamed for its inept handling of the pandemic but Congress is supposed to be in charge of the laws and the purse strings and Congress was an abysmal failure. Who in Congress lauded let alone funded Operation Warp Speed, the only big success of the pandemic response?
Here’s what I was shouting from the rooftops in June, Get BARDA More Money! It actually pains me to read this today because even a few extra billion then would have made a big difference.
The real scandal is how little we are spending on advanced research for vaccines–$2.2 billion is a pittance, less than a day’s worth of economic loss caused by COVID. Given their limited budget, BARDA is making good investments. Congress, however, has not allocated enough money to BARDA, one of the few agencies that had the foresight to do the right things, such as investing in emergency vaccine capacity, even before the pandemic hit. Congress’s failure to fund BARDA is why the administration is scraping the bottom of the barrel to get them all the funding they can.
We should go big, really big, on vaccines. But when I talk with people in Congress, I tell them that a big plan is ideal but if we can’t do that then at least GET BARDA MORE MONEY!
Addendum: The fact that BARDA can’t get enough funding from Congress in a pandemic is a good example of why we need a Pandemic Trust Fund.