News & Politics

NIH Director: Budget Cuts Delayed Ebola Vaccine and Treatment

More proof that austerity kills.

Photo Credit: via YouTube/BBC

Here are the results of austerity, and of a Republican party hell-bent on proving government can't work by starving it. From Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institute of Health:

"NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It's not like we suddenly woke up and thought, 'Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'" Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. "Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would've gone through clinical trials and would have been ready."

It's not just the production of a vaccine that has been hampered by money shortfalls. Collins also said that some therapeutics to fight Ebola "were on a slower track than would've been ideal, or that would have happened if we had been on a stable research support trajectory."

"We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference," he said.

Funding for the NIH since 2004 has been stagnant; $28.03 billion in FY2004, and $29.31 billion last year. That represents a 23 percent loss of purchasing power. The funding gap is even more disturbing for the agency within the NIH that deals most directly with infectious diseases, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which has been slashed in the past decade from $4.3 billion to $4.25 billion. As Collins said, it's not as if the research community in the U.S. didn't know Ebola was the massive infectious disease crisis that it is—it's been hobbled by Republicans indiscriminately slashing budgets to try to get more tax cuts to the rich.

There is no private investment in finding an Ebola vaccine, so it's got to come from government. That could still be a couple of years away. That's on the prevention side, but the funding cuts have hurt on the therapeutic side, as well. Collins says, that while there's a drug cocktail that's so far proving promising for treatment, it hasn't been fully tested and there just isn't enough of it, again thanks to budget cuts. "Had it not been for other shortages, we might very well by now know that it works and have a large stock of it," he told Huffington Post.

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The Republican stranglehold on the budget has to end.

Joan McCarter is a Daily Kos staff writer.
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