Emergency Funding for Zika Virus Response

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Source: wh.gov/Zika

On February 22nd, the Presidential office requested $1.9billion in emergency funding to support activities related to Zika virus, but these efforts have dangerously stalled in Congress. To date, nearly $600 million has been redirected by the Obama administration to fund Zika related research, front line response efforts, and vaccine development. More than half of this money was redirected from within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

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Source: Healthcareit

On August 3rd, Sylvia Burwell, DHHS Secretary, informed Congress that due to the delay in approving the emergency funding, the DHHS had been forced to further reallocate up to $81 million from other programs, including the National Institutes of Health. This was extremely important because it could impact the progression of the vaccine studies currently underway, as Secretary Burwell suggested in her letter to Congress. Her letter also outlined the response by the CDC and predicted that they too would be out of Zika funding by the end of the fiscal year (Sept 2016).

 

Funding approval for Zika virus related activities from the U.S. is more urgent than ever. As of August 17th, the U.S. has confirmed 14 cases of locally acquired Zika virus disease – all from Florida. This was after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced on August 2nd that an additional $16 million was awarded to 40 states and territories to support Zika related public health activities.

So what can you do? It is time we let our political leaders know that their constituency will not wait any longer. Follow Secretary Burwell’s lead – petition your local congressional representatives (House, Senate) and let them know this is an issue you care about. Or submit pre-formatted online petitions at Project Hope and AmeriCares. And spread the word and call to action amongst your peers.

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Source: Project Hope

 

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6 Responses to “Emergency Funding for Zika Virus Response”

  1. Emergency Funding for Zika Virus Response | Tropical Health Matters Says:

    […] August 20, 2016NTDs, ZikaBill Brieger Class members from the course “Social and Behavioral Foundations of Primary Health Care” at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health write a policy advocacy blog as part of their assignments. Here we are sharing the blog posted by Hanna B. More of the SBFPHC postings can be read at this link. […]

  2. mvessblog Says:

    Thank you for this important blog regarding funding for Zika Virus research, surveillance and vaccine development in the US. Not only is the delay in funding for Zika and the diversion of funds from Ebola research and containment concerning, it is troubling to see the political motivations behind these delays. It seems that each party wishes to set the other up for “failure” and to take the blame when Zika flares in the US. They may both have an even larger “failure” to be blamed for when Ebola raises its ugly head again and there is nothing allocated to react in an expeditious manner. Your blog topic highlights an even bigger question: how we can allocate funds to react to public health emergencies in a non-politicized fashion, with the health and welfare of the citizens of the United States and the world as the focus (as opposed to re-election or election of political candidates). Your graphics were very effective and I also signed the Project Hope petition. Thank you.

    1 Habercorn, J., Everett, B. July 6, 2016. Politico. Retreived from http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/zika-virus-funds-congress-fight-225183

  3. mvessblog Says:

    update: traveling this weekend and just caught CNN on the terminal TV–CDC warning pregnant women to stay away from Miami-Dade due to Zika virus. Looks like the “failure” is here sooner than anticipated by the budget-delay folks…

  4. katherineflorey Says:

    I also appreciate your blogging about this issue, and agree with the previous commentator: The degree to which public health funding has become politicized is very disheartening. Obviously, this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon; since 1996, for example, Congress has blocked CDC funding for any advocacy of firearms regulation, a position that has effectively ended all CDC research on gun violence. But if anything, things seem to be getting worse. It’s instructive to compare Congress’s initial response to Ebola to its current inaction with respect to Zika. In late 2014, in the midst of the Ebola emergency, President Obama got most of the Ebola funding he requested from a Republican Congress. (Of course, I realize that some of that funding is now imperiled because it may be diverted to Zika response.) Today, Zika also presents an urgent, serious threat (indeed, it is arguably more urgent in some ways, since in contrast to Ebola in 2014, Zika is already spreading quickly within the U.S.). Yet Congress has not been able to agree on a course of action. In part, this might be because the debate is taking place during a heated presidential election campaign. But I also wonder if it has to do with the fact that Zika response is bound up with controversial questions about abortion and contraception. It’s hard to know how to deal with a public health crisis that runs head-on into issues on which there are such longstanding, deep-rooted differences of opinion.

    There also seems to be a tendency, as the earlier commenter also noted, to wait until the problem actually materializes to do something about it, presumably because the need for action becomes more obvious at that point. One sign of this phenomenon is that, as discussed in the link below, Florida Republicans in the past couple of weeks have been urging Paul Ryan to hold an emergency session to approve funding. In some ways, this is an encouraging sign. At the same time, however, a legislative process that waits until the last possible minute to act is obviously dysfunctional.

    A few links (sorry these are not hyperlinks, which I haven’t been able to post in comments):
    Article discussing Congress’s approval of most (though not all) of Obama’s requested Ebola funding:
    http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/226605-ebola-funding-in-cromnibus-falls-just-short-of-obama-request

    Article about Florida Republicans’ push for Zika funding:
    http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/zika-florida-republicans-paul-ryan-227172

    Article about the combination of congressional pressure and internal decision-making that have limited the CDC’s ability to study gun violence:
    http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-gun-research-funding-20160614-snap-story.html

  5. kelbel1413 Says:

    I agree with the importance of securing funds for Zika virus and prioritizing this funding. The virus spread quickly across South America. The current outbreak was first detected a year ago in Brazil and there are now more than 1,800 cases of microcephaly linked to the outbreak. March of Dimes estimates that the lifetime cost of treating a child with microcephaly to be greater than $10 million dollars. It will also take at least two years if not more to get a vaccine to the market.
    With multiple cases now in Florida, in an touristy area, we are at risk for continued spread within the United States. There was already a locally transmitted case reported in Pinellas County, Florida which is over 200 miles from South Florida. They have started conducting door to door testing and outreach.
    The cost of not addressing the issue in a timely manner may end up costing tax payers significantly more than approving funding now. Finding ways to prevent the spread of the virus, quick detection in at risk individuals and controlling the mosquito populations should be a priority for our US government.

    http://www.marchofdimes.org/materials/MOD-Zika-fact-sheet-March-2016.pdf

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-zika-imaging-idUSKCN10Y28A

  6. elizabethwetzler Says:

    Thanks for sharing such an informative blog about the Zika virus and issues related to emergency response funding for it in the U.S. I am no Zika expert, that’s for sure, but I imagine that it might be hard for some individuals to perceive the same high level of urgency that many of us already perceive (me included). It is such a different conversation to have when people banter about the world’s greatest athletes going to Brazil for the Olympics and say that they hope they won’t “pick up Zika” than it is to have a serious discussion about microcephaly and what it means for the infant and parents and maybe whether a couple should consider delaying conception. The time that passes between conception and delivery seems so long already, and there are many “milestones” that people feel relieved to pass, but what milestone is there for Zika? Just to get through pregnancy without getting it? We would do a grave disservice to women and all people who want to become parents (not to mention their offspring) if we failed to act expeditiously because maybe we are not planning to have children (or already had them) and so we perceive ourselves to be at low risk for the virus. Once someone we personally know gets it, though, I expect the perceived urgency would jump skyward in a hurry! Anyway, thank you for bringing up this issue! I enjoyed reading your blog!

    Link to NEJM article on Zika and microcephaly: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1600651#t=article

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