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Photo: DARIO LOPEZ-MILLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services will reallocate $860 million of funds from National Institutes of Health to cover pandemic-related costs for unaccompanied children and staff at the Southern border, according to a letter obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: Health Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a letter to House and Senate appropriations leadership on Tuesday, saying the pandemic "has placed significant demands" on the HHS unaccompanied migrant children program.

  • Becerra said that since they are required to quarantine children who arrive at the border and must increase social distancing measures, the amount of "state-licensed shelter beds" has drastically decreased.

The big picture: Becerra urged the government to deploy "influx and emergency intake shelters to receive children from the border as quickly as possible."

  • He also said that the HHS will make sure that the transfer of funds does not negatively affect the NIH's plans.
  • Becerra added that he already consulted with the White House Office of Management and Budget about the reallocation.
  • Bloomberg was first to report the reallocation.

What they're saying: "The $860 million for the unaccompanied children program would simply cover pandemic-related cost increases and to ensure the continued health and safety of children and staff," an HHS spokesperson told Axios.

  • "At the same time, the need for pandemic-related precautions, such as testing and quarantining, has added at least $1.7 billion in costs" to the program, the spokesperson said.
  • "The funds are meant to ensure that HHS can humanely house and care for these children and promptly get them into the care of loved ones and other safe caregivers," the spokesperson added.
  • "We’re also continuing to call on Congress to invest in long-needed programmatic reforms to decrease the program’s reliance on funding transfers and reduce the time it takes to unify children with families."
  • The spokesperson also noted that reallocations are not uncommon.

Go deeper

Oct 14, 2021 - Health

FDA panel unanimously endorses Moderna boosters for certain populations

A pharmacist prepares to give a COVID-19 booster vaccination. Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

Members of the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine expert panel on Thursday endorsed boosters for Moderna recipients who are at high risk of severe COVID-19, occupational exposure to COVID-19 or are 65 years and older.

Why it matters: The unanimous decision mirrors the FDA conditions for those who qualify for a Pfizer booster.

Oct 14, 2021 - Sports

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he requires all employees to be vaccinated

Photo: Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in a podcast Wednesday that he requires all of his employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Driving the news: Cuban's comments come the same week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday that prohibits COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any "entity," including employers.

Oct 14, 2021 - Health

FDA will review Merck COVID-19 pill

The Merck logo. Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday that it will meet on Nov. 30th to review Merck's experimental oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment

Why it matters: An oral antiviral drug designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 could be a key tool to combat the pandemic. Merck ended its vaccine development in January.