The Trump administration has said that Operation Warp Speed, its push to develop a Covid-19 vaccine with unprecedented speed, is a $10 billion program funded by Congress, which also provided “other flexible funding.” But Bloomberg News reports that the administration has shifted billions of dollars allocated to public-health programs toward the vaccine effort, growing its budget to as large as $18 billion. A review of public records shows that government deals with private-sector partners under the program total almost $13 billion, according to Bloomberg.
John Tozzi, Riley Griffin and Shira Stein report:
“One of the biggest transfers came in August, with $6 billion pulled from $16.7 billion that had been allocated to the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile, which buys, holds and distributes crucial medical supplies in times of national crisis. The money had originally been meant to replenish stocks of medical protective gear, ventilators, and Covid-19 testing supplies, all of which have experienced shortages at points during the pandemic.
“The transfer, disclosed in a footnote buried on page 135 of a Government Accountability Office report this month about the U.S. response to the pandemic, came after Health and Human Services officials said that they had been unable to spend about $1 billion of the money allocated for the stockpile.”
The transfers are reportedly legal but raise questions about transparency and the ultimate effectiveness of the administration’s pandemic response. The GAO report cited by Bloomberg reportedly also noted that shortages of PPE supplies remain.