April 22, 2016

Hirono Introduces Legislation To Fund Fight Against Zika

Senators Mazie K. Hirono and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation to fully fund President Obama’s $1.9 billion funding request to fight the Zika virus. The measure is also 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).

“In Hawaii, 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.”

"This is a true emergency,” said Senator Nelson. “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."

Over the Senate’s next state work period, Senator Hirono will visit Hawaii Biotech, an Oahu company that is breaking ground in the development of Zika virus and West Nile virus vaccines. Senator Hirono has also discussed the federal government’s response to the Zika virus with Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, met with Hawaii State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park, and sent several letters to Congressional and Administration leaders urging rapid funding to combat the Zika virus at home and abroad. 

The legislation would robustly fund essential programs that expand diagnostic testing and treatment capacity; increase education, especially for pregnant women and healthcare providers; improve health services and support for pregnant women; and enhance vector programs in affected areas. To date, more than 800 Americans & residents of American territories have been infected with the Zika virus, including five in Hawaii.