Obama seeks more money for Ebola

From the CDC: the Ebola Virus. (AP Photo/CDC, File)
From the CDC: the Ebola Virus. (AP Photo/CDC, File) AP

The White House is asking Congress for a $6.18 billion emergency funding request to tackle Ebola in West Africa and at home.

President Barack Obama said he’ll ask the lame duck Congress to act on the measure before it leaves for the holidays, saying the money would “ensure that our doctors, scientists and troops have the resources that they need to combat the spread of Ebola in Africa and to increase our preparedness for any future cases here at home.”

The administration is seeking $4.64 billion requested for an immediate response and $1.54 billion for a contingency fund to meet future needs.

The request came as Obama talked Wednesday with the U.S. Public Health Service Commission Corps staffing the Monrovia Medical Unit, a 25-bed hospital constructed by the U.S. military that will open later this week to treat national and international healthcare workers who fall ill with Ebola.

Obama noted that of the 71 officers selected for the job, all of them accepted the assignment, “a testament to their selfless service to the nation.”

The White House says the money is designed to improve U.S. public health systems, contain the epidemic in West Africa, speed up the development of vaccines and treatments and strengthen global health security by helping vulnerable countries prevent disease outbreaks.

Research!America president Mary Woolley called Obama’s request “comprehensive” and said the group hoped Congress would act on a bipartisan basis.

“Americans expect our nation’s leaders to present a unified front against national threats, allocating the funding needed to protect our nation,” she said, urging lawmakers to avoid “haphazardly cutting funding for other priorities” to pay for the request.

The funds include $2.43 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, including $1.83 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to respond to Ebola and other infectious diseases. The plan calls for the CDC to fortify domestic public health systems and U.S. preparedness with support to more than 50 Ebola treatment centers.

It also calls for increased support for monitoring of travelers at U.S. airports and infection control, contact tracing and laboratory surveillance in West Africa.

A public health and social services emergency fund would get $333 million, including $166 million to immediately respond to patients with highly-infectious diseases such as Ebola. It also calls for $157 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for immediate response to manufacture vaccines and synthetic therapeutics for use in clinical trials. The request also includes $10 million to aid in modeling and genetic sequencing of the Ebola virus.

The National Institutes of Health would get $238 million for advanced clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of investigational vaccines and therapeutics and the Food and Drug Adminstration would get $25 million for development, review, regulation, and post-market surveillance of an Ebola vaccine and therapeutics.

The U.S. Agency for International Development would get $1.98 billion to increase U.S. foreign assistance in West Africa and assist in the region’s recovery. The request supports medical and non-medical, including Ebola treatment units and community care facilities, as well as increasing the number of safe burial teams and bolstering community education efforts.

The Department of State would get $127 million to expand its medical support and evacuation capacity, as well as support other diplomatic needs, including an Ebola Coordination Unit.

The administration says the request also includes resources to fund estimated U.S. contributions to a new United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response and to provide a voluntary contribution to the World Health Organization.

The Department of Defense would get an additional $112 million for its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop technologies relevant to Ebola, including the use of antibodies from survivors of Ebola.

The contingency fund would be used to support increased domestic efforts, such as expanded monitoring or a limited vaccination campaign that could target health care workers treating infected patients or an expanded response in Guinea, Sierra Leone or other countries if the virus spreads.

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