U.S. Senate Passes $1.1 Billion Compromise Bill to Fight Zika
The U.S. Senate passed a compromise bill that would provide the U.S. federal government with $1.1 billion the next year for emergency funding to combat Zika virus, which begins to threaten the country.
The amendment will provide the emergency funding, which would be used for mosquito control, public education and the development of a vaccine. Allocation will also be given for further research on the virus and for assistance to other countries battling with an outbreak declared as a global public health emergency by the World Health Organization.
This is three months after U.S. president Barrack Obama requested a total of $1.9 billion from Congress as recommended by public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health.
Although the Senate compromise bill falls short of the initial funding request from the White House, the Republican House Leaders said that they would provide $622 million in Zika funding, which is to be paid for in part using the money allocated to combat Ebola.
"We're going to be dealing with Zika for multiple years," Senator Marco Rubio told The Guardian.
Rubio's home state, Florida, stands as the most affected by Zika. The Florida department of health just recently identified three new cases of Zika, which all came from the Caribbean and South America, bringing Zika total to 116.
Rubio cited an estimate from CDC that the lifetime cost of caring for a child born with microcephaly could reach up to $10 million.
Senate has rejected a third option presented by Senators John Cornyn and Ron Johnson to provide $1.1 billion that would be offset by cuts to Obamacare's Prevention and Public Health Fund. Democrats opposed the plan saying it would weaken the public health system needed to help combat the virus, therefore undermining Zika aid.
Earlier this month, U.S.-territory Puerto Rico has reported its first Zika-related microcephaly case. In January, health officials confirmed the birth of a baby with microcephaly in Hawaii.