With more than 17,000 infected and nearly 6,000 dead, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is not going anywhere anytime soon. This means the threat remains very much real for the United States, despite being officially Ebola-free after Dr. Craig Spencer, the last U.S. patient infected by the virus, was declared cured. Making this point very clear should help President Barack Obama make the case for the emergency funding he is requesting from Congress to fight Ebola.
Officially, the White House called for $4.64 billion to be used for immediate Ebola response. The funding request, however, includes $1.54 billion as contingency to help the U.S. sufficiently plan for future epidemics.
Out of the requested amount, $1.83 billion is earmarked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's efforts at disease detection, while $1.98 billion will be given to USAID to assist Ebola-infected areas in their recovery. The National Institutes of Health will receive $238 million for therapies and treatment and $127 million will go to the State Department for aiding international partners. The Defense Department and the Food and Drug Administration will also receive $112 million and $25 million in funding, respectively.
Obama will tour the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland Tuesday, speaking not just about the funding issue but to applaud as well the promising results gleaned from the first phase of a clinical trial for a vaccine against Ebola.
If all else goes according to plan, the vaccine may see testing in West Africa in a matter of weeks. Should the vaccine prove to be successful against the virus, it will need to enter mass production to meet the demand in the affected countries. The contingency fund being requested from Congress can help in the production and distribution of Ebola vaccine.
Getting that emergency funding approved (and in full!) will definitely come in handy.
"While we have been heartened by the initial positive and bipartisan reaction, we have continued with an aggressive push so that Congress understands the importance of fully funding this request. Without these resources, the gains that we have achieved both at home and abroad could be jeopardized," said a senior administration official.
When the White House made the emergency funding request, there was consensus that swift action was necessary. Top Democrat and Republican representatives in the Senate were also vocal about their support but the emergency funding is in peril as Ebola starts slipping away from the consciousness of many living far, far away from West Africa.