(Senate - September 08, 2016)

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[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 135 (Thursday, September 8, 2016)]
[Pages S5450-S5451]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                           ZIKA VIRUS FUNDING

  Mr. MARKEY. Mr. President, we are in a race against time. The number 
of confirmed locally acquired Zika infections in Florida now total 56. 
In Puerto Rico, it is estimated that 50 pregnant women are infected 
with Zika each day. There are now 67 countries and territories around 
the world reporting Zika cases. The Director of the Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention has announced that the agency has exhausted its 
current funds to combat the Zika virus, but thus far the Republicans 
have refused to work with the Democrats to actually provide the new 
funding in the race to find a vaccine. This is simply unacceptable.
  Last month, I visited Cabo Verde off the coast of Africa. I saw 
firsthand the devastating impacts of the Zika virus. Through a Catholic 
Relief Services program, I met with mothers and their infants suffering 
from microcephaly, the birth defect which causes smaller brains and 
other developmental defects in newborns. I was able to meet with two 
loving mothers: Dunia, the mother of Dara; and Suely, who is the mother 
of Senilson. Both babies were born on June 5, 2016. The first case of 
microcephaly associated with the Zika virus on Cabo Verde was detected 
in March, just 6 months after the disease was declared an epidemic in 
the country. Now there are more than 7,500 reported cases of Zika on 
Cabo Verde, and the number continues to grow.
  Zika is a terrifying virus. It is the only known mosquito-borne virus 
that can cause birth defects and also be sexually transmitted. In 
addition to microcephaly, Zika also has been connected to neurological 
effects in individuals of any age, including a link to the onset of 
Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause paralysis for months. One bite 
from an infected mosquito could damage the course of a life forever.
  We need only look back a few chapters in our own history books to 
understand how important it is for humanity to find a vaccine for a 
virus like Zika.
  In 1953, there were 35,000 annual cases of polio in the United 
States. Mothers and fathers all across America were frightened that 
their children would be next to contract the debilitating disease. Two 
U.S. researchers, Dr. Albert Sabin and Dr. Jonas Salk, were locked in a 
historic race to develop a safe and effective polio vaccine. 
Fortunately, they were both successful. Today, those vaccines have 
virtually eliminated polio around the world.
  Now, in 2016, millions of parents and dozens of countries around the 
world are once again praying that the medical community can be 
catalyzed to develop a solution for today's global disease threat--the 
Zika virus.
  We are fortunate that in today's new race for a cure, there are at 
least three leading Zika vaccine candidates. Last month, I toured the 
laboratories at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, which 
is collaborating with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Their 
vaccine candidate has been found to offer universal protection against 
the Zika virus in laboratory tests. The results were so promising that 
the vaccine will be tested in a small group of individuals--human 
beings--this fall.
  There are two other vaccine candidates also showing positive results. 
One is made by the National Institutes of Health and the other by 
Inovio Pharmaceuticals. Both are far enough along that they are already 
utilizing human subjects, but if the current trials involving just the 
small groups are successful, we will need to provide much more funding 
to cover the costs of expanding this research to thousands of 
participants. That next step in the Zika clinical trials, if both of 
these candidates that I just mentioned are successful, could cost 
upward of $100 million to $200 million, beginning as soon as this 
January, if these clinical trials are successful with small numbers of 
human beings. That is a small amount of money when one considers that 
the cost of caring for one infant born with Zika-caused microcephaly 
will cost potentially up to $10 million through the life of that baby.
  Six months ago, knowing the impeding and impending threat of Zika 
once we entered the warm, mosquito-loving, hot summer months, fueled 
further by climate change, President Obama requested $1.9 billion in 
emergency funds from Congress to combat Zika, but instead of approving 
emergency funding at the start of the summer, Republicans, 
unfortunately, did not finish the business that we should have finished 
before they recessed Congress for 7 weeks. Families cancelled their 
summer vacations out of fear, while Republicans made Congress go on a 
vacation. Meanwhile, cases of Zika on our own soil, in Puerto Rico, and 
around the world ticked higher and higher.
  Whether it is Zika, Ebola, SARS, or the next global pandemic, we 
simply cannot treat every global health threat like a game of Whac-A-
Mole. We need a sustainable and comprehensive emergency medical system 
that is put in place so we can respond to all emerging infectious 
disease threats.
  First, we need a Federal fund that is readily available for use when 
a global disease represents itself. Second, we need a single person at 
the White House responsible for organizing domestic efforts as well as 
liaising with our international partners in the face of an infectious 
disease pandemic. We did this on Ebola. We should do it for every 
global health threat.
  The truth is, though, that if on Ebola we had already had a pandemic 
response team in place, we probably could have cut the amount of death 
and harm that was done by that disease by a dramatic amount, but the 
most important thing we need right now is we need the congressional 
Republicans to stop playing politics and work with Democrats to pass a 
real and serious response to the Zika crisis, including emergency 
funding. The fastest way to do this is for the House to bring a 
bipartisan, Senate-passed $1.1 billion compromise bill to address the 
Zika epidemic and bring it up for a vote. We have already passed that 
through the Senate. House Republicans should just take it up, vote on 
it, and we will get it done. It is only a matter of time before the 
fear of local transmission in Florida becomes the reality for nearly 
every State in this Nation. That is why immediate funding is a critical 
component of the U.S. and global fight

[[Page S5451]]

against the Zika virus. We have the intellectual capacity to develop 
faster diagnostic tests, efficient vaccines, and advanced therapeutics 
with Zika, but what we need now is the financial certainty to support 
this kind of work in an accelerated way. The next pandemic that awaits 
the global community is just one frequent flier account away. This 
crisis demands that Congress pass a Zika funding package as soon as 
possible. The continuation of vaccine development depends on it, our 
ability to stop the spread of the virus depends on it, and the lives of 
millions of people around the world depend on it.
  We won the race against polio in the 1950s. With accelerated funding, 
we have the opportunity today with these three vaccine candidates and 
others on the way to find a safe and effective solution to combat Zika 
by 2018. It is time to recognize the threat to humankind and the impact 
such a harmful disease will have on an entire generation of children by 
ensuring our 21st century scientists--our Sabins and Salks--have the 
funding they need to banish this virus to the history books.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Nebraska.