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A watchdog is suing the government for failing to promptly provide data it requested from President Joe Biden’s administration over the rationing of a crucial COVID-19 treatment.
Documents that will explain why the government stopped shipping monoclonal antibodies to Florida and other states in 2021 into 2022 are being sought by the Functional Government Initiative (FGI).
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are two subagencies of the Department of Health and Human Services that the watchdog claims have not complied with the legal requirements underlined in the Freedom of Information Act, leading to a federal court lawsuit (read below).
“The only way we’re going to be able to obtain these documents is through a lawsuit and that’s why we are suing HHS, NIH, and NIAID,” Peter McGinnis, a spokesman for FGI said.
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One of the COVID-19 treatments which have been allowed or permitted by American authorities, notably for variants of SARS-CoV-2 that were in circulation in 2021, was monoclonal antibodies.
One of the first states to advocate the medication, which stops mild to moderate COVID-19 cases from worsening and resulting in lower hospitalizations, was Florida.
The supply was controlled by the federal government. States received doses for free, but the agreement mainly prevented them from placing their own orders for dosages until the Biden administration began rationing in the fall of 2021, affecting states like Florida and Texas.
Other states, meanwhile, experienced neither a decrease nor a gain in allocation.
According to McGinnis, the rationing decision was “potentially motivated by politics” since top Biden administration officials and Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis publicly traded punches over the action.
According to the watchdog, this makes it crucial to see emails and other evidence pertaining to the judgment.
“Hopefully, it’s not. I would hate to live in a world that we have a pandemic on our hands and the White House is restricting essential medical supplies over, ‘We don’t like this governor in the way that he attacks us, we’re not going to let him have this,’” McGinnis said.
The DeSantis camp chose not to comment on the lawsuit.
The filing states that FGI initiated the information requests in February. Although the HHS acknowledged the request, no further information has been provided. According to the law, agencies are required to inform the individual making a request whether they will cooperate within 20 days and provide them the option of contacting the agency’s FOIA public liaison for assistance.
The NIH, in addition to an automated acknowledgment, had a staff member inquire for clarification; nevertheless, they did so after the legally prescribed 20-day window. The NIH also provided no more updates following FGI’s responses to the queries.
On May 10, NIAID informed FGI that its requests were being examined and provided a six-month timeline for completion. It was not clear if a review meant that the requests would be processed or if a search was actually being conducted.
Without filing a lawsuit, FGI informed the court that the agencies’ violations would prevent it from getting the information it needs.
The watchdog urged the court to require the agencies to disclose all documents within 10 days, or some other such timeframe as considered suitable.
Read the document below: