East Hawaii News

Hirono, Senators Introduce Legislation in Support of President’s Zika Funding

April 22, 2016, 8:51 AM HST
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Senator Mazie Hirono. U.S. Senate photo.

Senator Mazie Hirono. U.S. Senate photo.

Hawai’i Senator Mazie Hirono and Florida Senator Bill Nelson introduced legislation on Friday that would fund President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion funding request to fight Zika.

The legislation would fund essential programs like the expansion of diagnostic testing and treatment capacity, increased education, improved health services and support for pregnant women, and enhanced vector programs in affected areas.

“In Hawai’i, the threat of the Zika virus remains a major public health concern, especially as we approach the summer months,” said Senator Hirono. “Five cases of the Zika virus have already been reported in our state, and given what we know about Zika, we must face this head on instead of taking a piecemeal approach to preparing our families, health care workers and providers, and communities. When I last spoke to Secretary Burwell, she agreed that we need to act swiftly to fight the Zika virus. Our legislation would do just that by robustly funding vaccine development, including the work of Hawaii Biotech, education, health care, and vector control programs.”

Senator Nelson called Zika a “true emergency.”

“We must approve the president’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding now, not later, because the cost of inaction would be far greater, and the consequences way too devastating,” Senator Nelson said.

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Senator Hirono also plans to visit Hawai’i Biotech during the next Senate state work period. The Oahu company is in the process of developing vaccines for viruses like Zika and West Nile.

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The measure was co-sponsored by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Harry Reid (D-NV), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

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