The US House of Representatives passed a $622.1 million Zika funding bill, or about one third the amount the Obama administration asked for for the battle against Zika in the US last week.
House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said the House’s funding plan helps protect the American people in the most direct way possible and provides money for critical priorities such as mosquito control and vaccine development. He added that combined with the Obama Administration’s earlier funding shift—most of it from existing Ebola money—the total funding with the House bill would total $1.2 billion.
The day prior, the Senate approved a $1.1 billion compromise measure to fund the Zika virus response.
President Obama is expected to veto the House bill saying, “So, effectively, there’s no new money there; all that the House has done is said, ‘You can rob Peter to pay Paul’,'” Obama said. ”
“Bottom line is Congress needs to get me a bill.”
CDC Director Dr Tom Friedman said, “It’s mind-boggling. This is no way to fight an epidemic. We’re basically nickeling-and-diming the response when we know that there are urgent needs that aren’t getting met.”
CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook said public health officials are saying it’s like watching an accident happening in slow motion. “Do we really have to wait for local transmission before we go into high gear and give public health officials the funds they say they so desperately need.”
However, others are not as concerned about the Zika threat to the US. The epidemiologist who directed a 10-year international effort that eradicated smallpox throughout the world, Dr DA Henderson says the threat of Zika to the United States does not warrant the degree of fear and concern that it has triggered. “I can’t get very excited about this whole affair.”
Henderson, now 87, says he’s all for enhanced mosquito control efforts; however, he stresses that the virus causes few, if any, symptoms in most people it infects and doesn’t transmit well between people.
Henderson also the clamors for money are due to a recent surge in virus laboratories. “Their inclination, in good faith, is to say, ‘This could be a real problem’ to keep their money flowing to their laboratories,” Henderson says. “It’s not evil and I don’t want virologists bereft of funds, but you have to keep in perspective what some of these things mean. It’s gotten a little out of hand.”
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