White House: Zika Bill ‘Akin to Passing Out Umbrellas’ Before a Hurricane

By Melanie Arter | April 13, 2016 | 3:53 PM EDT

The Zika virus is believed to be responsible for babies being born with abnormally small heads. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Wednesday that a bill allows the FDA to include Zika drug developers in its voucher program is an “insufficient” response to the Zika outbreak and “akin to passing out umbrellas in the advance of a potential hurricane. ”

“The passage of that bill … is positive, but a rather meager accomplishment,” Earnest said, adding that “in some ways it’s akin to passing out umbrellas in the advance of a potential hurricane, so an umbrella might come in handy, but it’s gonna be insufficient to ensure that communities all across the country are protected from a potentially significant impact.”

 



“That’s what we’re focused on,” he said. “Some of you may be familiar with the expression of being a day late and a dollar short. In this case, Congress is two months late and $1.9 billion short in providing the assistance that our public health professionals say that they need to make sure that they respond appropriately to this situation.”

The bill provides financial incentives to companies working on Zika drug treatments and includes those drug developers in the Food and Drug Administration’s priority review voucher program. The House passed the bill on a voice vote Tuesday. It was already approved by the Senate.

“The bill that Congress passed yesterday doesn’t include any funding,” Earnest explained, adding that it won’t “do anything to help local communities across the country that carry this virus or fight the mosquitoes that carry this virus.

“It’s not going to expand access to diagnostic tests that would allow people to more easily get tested and get a prompt result from that test about whether or not they have the Zika virus,” he said.

“All of these are steps that are critical to ensuring that we’re protecting the pregnant women and their newborn children from a virus that we know has a potentially devastating impact, so no. I’m not prepared to give Congress credit for that legislation,” Earnest said.

“It is a positive step, but it is a far cry from what our public health experts tell us is necessary to prepare for the situation,” Earnest added.

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