FINALLY...Congress OK’s $1.1 Billion for Zika
WASHINGTON — Ending months of “disgraceful” inaction, Congress finally approved $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus, providing much-needed help to Florida and other states, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said today.
“It's disgraceful that Congress took so long responding to this deadly health crisis,” Buchanan said. “This was a case of Washington dysfunction at its worst.”
Nonetheless, Buchanan said he was pleased the money will finally be available to confront the spread of the virus and find a vaccine.
The money is part of a government funding bill that now goes to the president’s desk.
With Buchanan’s strong support, the U.S. House passed the bill in a 342-85 vote. Earlier on Wednesday, the Senate passed the legislation in a 72-26 vote.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long, but I’m thankful Congress finally took action to stop Zika,” Buchanan said. “This funding will go a long way towards protecting vulnerable pregnant women and their newborns.”
Under the legislation, $933 million will go to the Department of Health and Human Services, including $394 million to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for mosquito control and surveillance. Also included is $397 million for the National Institutes of Health for vaccine and diagnostic development.
“Florida has been fighting Zika for months, and the number of infections continues to rise,” Buchanan said. “Federal action is needed to increase mosquito control efforts and speed the development of a vaccine. I’m hopeful the president will sign this bill quickly so Florida communities can start using these resources as soon as possible.”
Buchanan’s home state of Florida is ground zero for the Zika virus, and the sole state in the nation to have confirmed mosquito-to-human transmission of the disease. In all, 921 people have contracted the disease across the state, including 92 pregnant women.
As of Sept. 21, there were 3,358 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. Nationwide, 749 pregnant women are infected with Zika, according to the CDC.
Earlier this month, top government health officials warned Congress that money to combat Zika will run out by the end of September. “The cupboard is bare,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. “Basically, we are out of money and we need Congress to act.”
And last week Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Washington Post the federal government was forced to take money from cancer research to pay for the development of a Zika vaccine.