Public health experts and lawmakers are disappointed that a new $10 billion COVID-19 funding package omits funding for international efforts to fight the virus.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney on Monday announced the agreement to fund the development of COVID-19 therapeutics and research into new variants of the virus. The deal is expected to pass in the evenly divided Senate, but critics say the lack of global funding is severing US commitments and paving the way for new variants of the uncontrolled virus.
According to Romney, half of the $10 billion will be used to develop, manufacture and deliver treatments. Another $750 million will be used for research and clinical trials for new coronavirus variants while supporting vaccine production capacity.
Romney said in a press statement that the package addresses a key Republican demand that any new COVID-19 funds requested by President Joe Biden be paid for by reallocating unspent pandemic aid funds. He added that “it won’t cost the American people an extra dollar.”
However, others called the deal short-sighted.
“I am deeply disappointed with the outcome of the negotiations on the COVID-19 Emergency Supplemental Package announced today, a short-sighted agreement that does not include a penny for the global distribution of vaccines to prevent the emergence of more deadly and transmissible variants,” Democratic said senator Chris Coons said on Twitter.
Coons called the lack of international spending a “grave mistake” and “fiscally stupid”. He said tens of millions of vaccines paid for by the US government could now be wasted instead of going to developing countries. Now the US is missing an opportunity to generate goodwill with these countries by providing them with vaccines that are more effective against the Omicron variant than vaccines from China or Russia.
In addition, Coons said that the longer the 2.8 billion unvaccinated people go without vaccination, “the more likely it becomes that another, more transmissible or deadlier variant will find its way onto our shores.”
The Biden administration signed off on the World Health Organization’s goal of fully vaccinating at least 70 percent of the world’s population in September, following a summit of world leaders.
“Cutting global funding for COVID is deeply damaging,” Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, on Twitter. “We are reneging on Biden’s promise to vaccinate 70% of the world and risking variants newly planted in the US. It is short-sighted and lacks compassion. We’re better than that.”
The White House responded to the package with a statement that the $22.5 billion it was requesting for vaccines, boosters, treatments, testing and global immunization efforts was “essential.” Although the White House failed to get the requested funds, it called on Congress to urgently approve the $10 billion package “as we currently risk not having some key tools like treatments and testing starting in May and June.” .
The White House added it will continue to work with Congress to fund its global COVID-19 response. Romney also signaled that he was open to further talks.
“Although this agreement does not include funding for the US global immunization program, I stand ready to find a fiscally responsible solution to support the global effort in the coming weeks,” Romney said in his statement.
news week has reached out to Romney’s office for comment.
https://www.newsweek.com/global-health-aid-left-out-uss-new-10b-covid-funding-agreement-1694944 Global health aid excluded from US’ new $10 billion COVID funding deal