Zika Update August 8, 2016: Progress and Pauses
News in the headlines about “striking” results from a Zika vaccine raise hopes that even if the outbreak spreads, there may be another way to avoid its devastating effects. However, coupled with that promising news is the news that such progress relies on a funding stream that is quickly drying up, and replenishment depends on Congressional action.
On Sunday, Governor Rick Scott of Florida criticized the federal government’s lag in response to Zika, stating that although Florida has responded quickly and comprehensively to the discovery of locally-acquired cases, Zika is “a national, international issue” and that Florida still “need[s] the federal government to show up.”
President Obama reinforced the idea that a widespread outbreak in the U.S. is unlikely, but he urged Congress to lay aside partisan politics to get Zika funding moving. The current funding will run out in August. Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell laid out exactly what the funding—or lack of funding—impacted, including primarily vaccine development and better diagnostic tools. Three different potential Zika vaccines (including one developed at the University of Maryland School of Medicine) have had very good results during the animal testing phase of development. The vaccines were found safe for monkeys and provided protection against the virus. A vaccine could be critical for helping to turn the tide against Zika, in the U.S. and in those countries hardest hit by the virus, like Brazil.