This Is How Much The NIH Actually Cares About COVID-19

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Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found a miniscule amount of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget in 2020 went to clinical research on COVID-19.

Only 1.8% of the $42 billion NIH budget last year was spent on clinical research on COVID-19, according to the researchers. In total, 5.7% was spent on COVID-19 research generally, and a vast majority of the spending didn’t take place until the pandemic was well underway.

Among the research areas that received more funding than COVID-19 were Alzheimer’s disease, aging and behavioral and social sciences.

While a large number of grants were approved for the study of therapeutics, testing capacity, vaccines and treatment options, several key areas received little-to-no attention. The NIH funded only four grants in all of 2020 to study airborne transmission of COVID-19, two grants to study mask efficacy and zero grants on masking for kids, according to the Johns Hopkins report.

Additionally, the study finds that only 0.05% of the annual NIH budget was spent on COVID-19 during the first three months of the pandemic. (RELATED: Even With Breakthrough Cases, The Data Doesn’t Seem To Support Mask Mandates For Vaccinated People)

The researchers argue that their findings support longstanding criticisms of the NIH for a failure to weight agency resources with “disease burden”. A 2011 study found that disease burden, as defined by the World Health Organization, only accounted for 33% of funding level variation across 29 common diseases within the NIH budget. It followed a 1999 study in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that there was no relation between the prevalence and duration of hospitalizations for a disease and the NIH funding dedicated to it, and only a weak correlation with the number of deaths and years of life lost.