Medical research cutbacks serve as ironic response to health crisis

Medical research cutbacks serve as ironic response to health crisis

When the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cut funding for the non-profit company EcoHealth Alliance, which was conducting COVID-19 research, April 24, it wasn’t completely surprising to hear. This wasn’t the first instance in which the government budgeted funding for scientific research. 

In 2018, President Donald Trump proposed major cuts to medical and scientific research, including an 18% decrease of the NIH’s annual budget, from $31.8 billion to roughly $26  billion. Other proposed cuts included $776 million from the National Science Foundation, which supports scientific research. Congress rejected the 2018 proposal.

When it comes to scientific research funding and in interest of being a representative democracy, the government should make decisions with the best interest of the people in mind. According to The Verge, a 2015 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that roughly 61% of adults said that government funding is essential  for the progress of scientific research. In another section of the study for support of basic science, 71% said government funding pays off in the long run.

This percentage is increasingly relevant now, as many scientific research groups continue to seek more information on COVID-19, and how it spreads. As of May 6, the World Health Organization is tracking 8 potential vaccines being developed. If the percentage of individuals in favor of funding for research was this high merely five years ago, then it is almost definite that people will think the same way especially now. 

In a March survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 68% of Americans said they had a favorable view of and trust in medical research scientists. Additionally, in a March survey conducted by Research America, 59% of 18-29 year olds said it was important for government officials to listen to scientists. 

When research is dedicated to saving the lives of others, it makes sense to not make cuts that are necessary for the research. With the escalation of COVID-19, pulling funds from research for the disease was an extremely foolish decision. More specifically, the government pulling these funds was foolish, and instead should have more concern for the people than this. By cutting funding for a study that has been active for more than six years, it provides reason to believe that there is a disregard for global health.

 The reasoning for the cuts was unusual, as well. In a White House press briefing, President Trump said the grant was pulled because it was “going to that area.” By “that area”, he meant the Wuhan lab that EcoHealth Alliance was working with for the study. Political interest shouldn’t get in the way of a study that has the potential to affect over 328 million Americans. In response, Dr. Peter Dazsak, head of EcoHealth, told CBS News about his disbelief in an interview, May 11. The $3.7 million grant received a high priority score when reviewed last year by independent scientists for a renewal of the funds.

“It was in the top 3% of grants they reviewed,” Dazsak said. “And that’s unusual [that the grant was cut].” 

In February, President Trump proposed cuts to the 2021 NIH budget by more than 7%. Members of America’s science community did not react well to the proposed cut. According to The Scientist, chief executive officer Sudip Parikh for the American Association for the Advancement of Science said there’s a risk of slowing down “forms of better health, a stronger economy, a more sustainable environment.” 

The people want trust to be established with the government, which isn’t happening. Essentially, the government is cutting the rope that tethers the trust of the people. Cutting funding means slowing the progress of crucial research to a disease that has affected millions. The wellbeing and health of the people is of the greatest importance right now. The government needs to listen, and take the wellbeing of its people into higher consideration.