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Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Infectious Diseases Society of America warns federal FY 2020 spending bill ignores urgent challenges

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The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has delivered a cautious appraisal of the federal spending bill for FY 2020, noting that while it will strengthen public health and research efforts, it undercuts — at Americans’ peril — HIV investment and immunization efforts, among others.

The IDSA noted that the main downfall of the bill is that it does not go far enough. The organization states that another $100 million are needed to sustain the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) role in implementing the Global Health Security Agenda. Still, the bill only provided a $75 million increase, leaving the total at $570.8 million. Still, it fared significantly better than others.

Advanced Molecular Detection has been flat funded, hitting a method for understanding how resistance and emerging threats spread through communities. The National Healthcare Safety Network was also flat-funded, limiting the CDC’s ability to collect data on antibiotic use, resistance, and infections. This is in spite of the fact that drug-resistance infections now cause as many as 35,000 deaths in the United States each year.

Factor in the flat funding of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority as well, and as IDSA notes, the antibiotic pipeline is diminishing, and the development of urgently needed new medicines isn’t being prioritized. Yet the hits kept coming.

“At a time when efforts to control HIV require accelerated efforts, the bill flat-funds the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,” IDSA said in a statement. “Domestic public health priorities also receive mixed acknowledgment in the bill. The $5 million increase in CDC funding to address infectious diseases related to the opioid epidemic and $12 million in new funding to provide loan repayment to health care professionals who care for individuals with substance use disorders recognize the urgency of responding to growing public health crisis. At the same time, however, in the wake of measles outbreaks across America that brought domestic incidence of the disease to a two-decade high, the bill flat funds CDC’s Immunization Program to combat outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases and educate the public about the importance of vaccines.”

The image of a mixed bag, however, extends to investments on the whole. Despite these setbacks, IDSA acknowledged several gains in the bill. For example, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) would benefit from a $50 million increase in antimicrobial resistance research. At the same time, the CDC Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative would receive another $2 million. A total of $362 million would be given to NIAID’s work across many sectors.

“The bill both recognizes the critical role that a strengthened global health infrastructure must play in our own public health and security, but neglects vital initiatives,” IDSA said.