Back in February of this year, President Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion for the fight against the spread the Zika virus in order to protect the health and safety of Americans. The request included ramping up surveillance efforts, controlling the mosquitos spreading Zika, accelerating research into new vaccines, as well as helping other countries already battling the virus. Even though Zika’s funding bills passed both the House and Senate in May of this year, they did not meet the President’s level of funding.
After months of back and forth, Congress finally agreed to allocate $1.1 billion to help fight against Zika. The delay of the funding was due to disagreements over funding being allocated to Planned Parenthood and whether the funding should be considered “emergency” spending. Since Zika virus can be sexually transmitted and can harm pregnant women, reproductive health and family planning needs to be included in the Zika response. The CDC has stated that the primary strategy in reducing Zika-related pregnancy complications is family planning. World Health Organization Director General said in a statement, “The response now requires a unique and integrated strategy that places support for women and girls of child-bearing age at its core.” Many felt that Congress was attacking women’s healthy by eliminating funding for family planning services which would affect over 4 million people in the Zika response bill.
The president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said, “Immediate efforts to improve access to contraception and prevent pregnancy will help us avoid the long-term affects associated with the Zika virus.” Republicans finally agreed to set aside the extreme provisions that would have specifically blocked Planned Parenthood providers from receiving critical funding.
The new deal that has been approved in Congress will include $396 million for a Zika virus vaccine and better diagnostic testing, $394 million for the CDC for mosquito control and surveillance, as well as $66 million for the health care of people affected in Puerto Rico and other US territories. In total, the FY2016 Zika supplemental bit will provide $1.1 billion in emergency funding. Combined with the funds already reprogrammed by the Administration for Zika response activities, the total available resources to respond to Zika virus will now be $1.7 billion.