ASHINGTON — The Obama administration has significantly increased its request for emergency funding to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus, STAT has learned.
In an updated request sent to Capitol Hill Monday and provided to STAT by a congressional aide, the administration increases the amount of research funding, including vaccine research, for the National Institutes of Health from $130 million to $277 million. That money will help NIH prepare for Phase 2 trials for vaccines in the next fiscal year, according to the aide.
The administration is also upping its request for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s work on vaccines and diagnostic tests from $100 million to $188 million.
The increase over the original February request reflects that vaccine development is “further along than folks anticipated,” but also that vaccines need to be a priority because the Zika threat has become more urgent, the aide said.
The administration is balancing out the new spending by lowering its request for an unallocated contingency fund for emerging threats and eliminating a request to improve and build facilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An Obama administration official confirmed that the summary represented its new request. “The Zika outbreak continues to evolve, as does our knowledge about the virus. As we learn more, it impacts preparedness and response funding estimates,” the official said.
The administration has already directed more than $500 million left over from the Ebola emergency fund to respond to Zika. But top health officials appeared at the White House last week to argue that they still did not have the funding necessary to respond to the crisis and find a treatment.
Congressional Republicans have said that the administration should first use the money remaining from the Ebola fund and that they will continue to monitor the need for additional funding. House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers said last week that he needed more information from the administration before his staff could finish a supplemental funding bill.