Fauci: A “global health reserve fund” needed, for Zika, and outbreaks to come

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Anand Parekh with the Bipartisan Policy Center and Dr. Anthony Fauci

Anand Parekh with the Bipartisan Policy Center and Dr. Anthony Fauci

//UPDATE — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing additional locally transmitted Zika infections, and failures in mosquito control efforts, issued a alert today advising pregnant women to avoid a 1-mile radius surrounding the Miami neighborhood where local transmission has taken place, in addition to other precautions.//

The National Institutes of Health is set to start the first phase of clinical trials early this month to test the potential of a vaccine candidate against Zika virus, but without dedicated funding, proceeding to further testing will be challenged, National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday.

Fauci spoke at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, on the same day the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that four cases of the virus that can cause severe neurological birth defects were transmitted locally in Miami, Florida in early July.

In the meantime, Congress’s failure to approve a supplemental funding bill before breaking for a seven-week summer recess means no Zika-response funding will be approved before September, leaving the NIH, the CDC, and other federal agencies with increasingly limited options with which to respond to Zika at home and abroad.

“I have moved a fair amount of money from other accounts to do proactive, full court press on the research,” Fauci said, adding that the agency is “close to the point where we will run out of money,” to fund further investigation.

While the confirmation of the first locally-transmitted cases in Florida have made the need for funding particularly urgent, Fauci said, without additional funding, NIAID won’t be able to begin preparing for the next phase of clinical trials in countries with active outbreaks, including setting up labs and training personnel.

One way to get over political gridlock, Fauci said, is to establish a global health reserve fund that can be accessed quickly when public health emergencies occur.

“If we need to move quickly, we wouldn’t have to go through something like the appropriations process where a budget is presented, it goes to the Senate, then the House, then back to the Senate and then to the President and signed into law,” Fauci said.

“We cannot prevent these infections,” he added, “but we can improve the way we respond.”

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