Obama Administration Assigns $81 Million to Fight Zika Virus

The Obama administration plans to reallocate $81 million from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fight the Zika virus, according to a letter from HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. The funds will be transferred from other programs at the National Institutes of Health ($34 million), as well as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority ($47 million). An additional $347 million was transferred from an existing fund to fight the Ebola virus.

The reallocation of funds is a response to Congress’ deadlock on how to proceed with funding for Zika virus research and development after the Obama administration called for $1.9 billion in funding.

“The failure to pass a Zika emergency supplemental has forced the administration to choose between delaying critical vaccine development work and raiding other worthy government programs to temporarily avoid these delays,” Ms. Burwell wrote. Despite this, she noted that the reallocated funds “will be virtually exhausted by the end of the fiscal year” on September 30.

As of August 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,825 Zika cases in the United States, in addition to 5,548 cases in U.S. territories – mainly Puerto Rico. Of those, 972 involve pregnant women, and 15 babies have been born with Zika-related birth defects.

Source: The Washington Post, August 11, 2016.