Health Officials, Lawmakers Dig In Their Heels on Funding to Combat Zika Virus

abadonian/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Health officials urged lawmakers on Wednesday to approve funding to fight the Zika virus.

“The bottom line is that nothing about Zika is going to be easy,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health stressed that the development of a vaccine is key.

“When asked, well, we don’t really know what you’re going to do with the money — that is what we’re going to do with it,” Fauci said regarding vaccine development.

The virus has been linked to birth defects in children, and Schuchat says there simply isn’t enough information on that yet. “We don’t know the chances of what happens if you do have Zika, what will happen to your baby,” she said Wednesday. “We don’t know as much as we need to know about transmission.”

Funding to combat the spread of the Zika virus could be approved as soon as next week, though much work remains before that becomes a reality.

The Senate will vote on three different measures to fund the government’s anti-Zika efforts next week. Two of the proposals, which offer $1.1 billion each, fall short of President Obama’s call for $1.9 billion in funding. Democratic Sen. Harry Reid called those plans woefully inadequate, saying that “allocating half of the President’s request to fight the spread of Zika is not enough.

A bipartisan third proposal, crafted by Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, would allocate the full $1.9 billion.


“I’ve said repeatedly that Congress should not allow politics to delay action on Zika, and I’m hopeful we’ll begin to see some meaningful action on this public health emergency very soon,” Rubio said in a statement. “There’s no reason every proposal to address Zika cannot be bipartisan and earn broad support, and I’m hopeful we can reach a final outcome that fully addresses the problem.”

Florida has been hit as hard by Zika as any other state in the U.S., with three new cases reported on Wednesday. The state has seen 112 cases of Zika so far.

If any of the three measures pass the Senate, they would then have to gain approval from the House as well. The measures are, however, being brought to the floor as amendments to a major military spending bill, disagreements on which could also hold up the Zika funding as well.

Sen Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she was “encouraged that Democrats and Republicans will be able to come together with a strong step forward to help ensure families across the count are prepared to respond to this emergency.” Murray helped to craft one of the $1.1 billion funding amendments.

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