Obama shifts funds to fight Zika

The Obama administration on Thursday said it was shifting $81 million funds within the Department of Health and Human Services to support Zika vaccine research. $34 million in National Institutes of Health that had been designated to fund treatments for other diseases such as cancer and diabetes will be transferred to Zika research. Another $47 million will be reallocated to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to work on Zika.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said the money being transferred with NIH will allow the agency to begin setting up the second phase of a vaccine study that is under way. She also estimated that NIH will need another $196 million in fiscal 2017 for vaccine and other research related to Zika. 

In February, President Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight against Zika, but his proposal was not approved by Congress, asking for a detailed accounting of money uses. Last month, Democrats blocked Republican’s $1.1 bill to fight Zika with provisions that would have banned funding for abortion-provider Planned Parenthood to provide contraception related to the virus, mainly in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico. Without long-term funding from the government, undergoing Zika research would halt at critical stages.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1962 Zika case have been reported in U.S. states, with 6618 case reported in U.S. Territories, as of August 10. The Florida Department of Health has identified that Zika is being spread by mosquitoes in Wynwood, a neighborhood of Miami.

Where are big pharmaceutical companies? Development of vaccine is an extremely risky venture for big pharmaceuticals. It takes more than a few years and millions of dollar to bring the vaccine to market with great potential of failure during trials. Even vaccines are finally able to appeal in the market, big pharmaceuticals are very likely unable to recover the huge investment and spending, let alone diseases may get under control before vaccines come out.

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