On Thursday, the U.S. government announced plans to purchase 14.6 million vials of a drug that works against a potentially deadly form of Zika. Experts say the move will help avert a spike in the number of cases of a potentially catastrophic disease if major storm surges followed a season of devastating rainfall.
The news comes on the heels of the Trump administration initially indicating that they would likely be unable to afford the drug.
“It was first widely used in the Southeast in the 1950s to prevent a devastating drought, and it was later developed to stop the transmission of other viruses and diseases, including the Zika virus, and has shown remarkable safety and efficacy in clinical trials,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “The decision to purchase large quantities of ZIKV vaccine for the impending summer heat wave demonstrates our continued commitment to fighting the Zika virus.”
Experts say that the decision to issue the purchase authorization came after discussions between federal health officials, the pharmaceutical companies, the Food and Drug Administration, and the CDC. The week of buying, first reported by Reuters, will start on May 23 and last through the end of June.
“The reason they’re buying 14.6 million doses — and paying the full wholesale price — is that when you’re dealing with a very limited amount of vaccine and supplies, you have to have enough to meet the needs of vaccine,” Gail Shibley, director of the Centers for Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, told The New York Times.
The CDC does not speculate on how much money the decision will cost, but experts say it’s only one facet of a larger effort to address the issue.
“In other words, there are a number of grants and funds at CDC, and various other public health agencies, that can help cover this cost, and other organizations will be providing ongoing support,” said Mr. Shibley.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, administrator of the CDC, has also announced plans to create the “Zika Action Plan” that will run through 2020. Details of that plan are expected to be released in the coming weeks.
In total, experts estimate that over 80,000 dengue cases were recorded in the U.S. during 2018, with nearly 1,300 fatalities reported. Health officials have also warned of the potential threat posed by other devastating mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya.
Earlier this month, CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald told ABC News, “I would say that we have a feeling of urgency, as well as the reality that there’s a very limited supply of vaccine.”
Dr. Fitzgerald went on to explain, “When you have a supply problem, you order as much vaccine as you can afford to put out.”
The actual cost of COVID-19 is not yet known but experts estimate that the drug is roughly $140 per dose.
Read the full article on The Washington Post.
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