With the growing concern on the explosion of Zika Virus, President Barack Obama has asked the congress to allocate $1.8 billion in emergency funds for research on a cure and a vaccine.
The most affected areas by the virus are South and Central America, and the Caribbean. And although it is not as lethal as other recent viruses (e.g. Ebola), it is gaining attention because it greatly affects pregnant women, with the effects manifesting on the babies upon birth.
Obama made great emphasis on vaccine production, with $200 million of the said Zika emergency fund to be exclusive on the research, development and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic test for the virus, In the United States and abroad, according to Reuters.
Even until today, it is still fairly difficult for scientists to make a vaccine good enough to be approved by the different requirements and standards that the government has set. It usually takes several years for a single vaccine to be fully announced effective and safe.
Today, vaccines must meet many more government benchmarks before drug makers bring it to market. It takes several years of lab research for scientists to figure out what the antigen is to stop a disease.
In the case of Zika, it is unlikely the epidemic will be over any time soon so a vaccine can be very helpful. As it spreads explosively all over the southern Americas and all over the world, World Health Organization scientists are projecting that three to four million people will be infected by the virus in America, this year alone.
Zika’s risk seems restrained to pregnant women whose unborn babies develop a birth defect called microcephaly – a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than how it normally should be. Zika is also linked to Gullian-Barre, another neurological disease that results in the paralyses of the affected person. But none of these are conclusive yet, with the relationship based on the increased number of Zika infections and microcephaly cases in Brazil, according to CNN.
“Protecting Americans, particularly children, from communicable diseases is a high priority for everyone,” said McConnell Deputy Chief of Staff Don Stewart. “Congress would consider the emergency funding proposal, but in the context of larger budget and given limited federal resources, we expect the administration will brief Congress on their funding priorities at the briefing,” Stewart added.
Asked how the government would pay for the $1.8 billion plan, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “Those are the kinds of things Congress will have to work out,” USA Today reported.
While people await for a solution to Zika, a lot of issues on travels have been raised, especially with the upcoming Olympic Games that is set to happen in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, which is one of the countries majorly affected by the virus. The United States Olympic Committee has told athletes and staff that they should consider skipping the event if they have health concerns about Zika, according Washington Business Journal.