In the midst of the current Ebola outbreak, the United States is scrambling to find answers. Despite previous advice to fund centers that would monitor and contain possible outbreaks of the virus in other countries, and despite the current need for a vaccine, the U.S. is pouring over $39 million into other programs that appear insignificant in comparison to the Ebola virus.
The Washington Times reported that in 2008, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggested that the Obama administration “establish 18 regional disease detection centers around the world to adequately safeguard the U.S. from emerging health threats like Ebola.”
However, in 2014, the CDC has only 10 centers, none of which are in West Africa, the home to the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus.
In a previous memo from the CDC to the Obama transition team, the CDC described a plan that focused on being proactive, and using their disease detection centers to monitor “threats in hotspots overseas,” before they were able to spread to the United States.
“The existing centers have already proven their effectiveness and impact on detecting and responding to outbreaks including avian influenza, aflatoxin poisoning, Rift Valley fever, Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks,” said the memo.
As previously reported, a recent audit of the United States Department of Homeland Security showed that if a potential pandemic were to occur, the U.S. would be “ill-prepared.” In addition to lacking the supplies needed to combat deadly viruses, such as Ebola, the United States has also not yet developed a vaccine.
The debate over how much money should be devoted to finding a cure for Ebola has ignited controversy among U.S. lawmakers. According to the Washington Times, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has lost $1.2 billion in funding over the last four years. Francis Collins, the Director of NIH, attributes the agency’s lack of vaccine to the budget cuts.
“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,” Collins said.
However, the Washington Free Beacon reported that it has “uncovered $39,643,352 worth of NIH studies within the past several years that have gone to questionable research.”
Instead of pouring money into a vaccine for Ebola, in 2014 NIH added an additional $670,567 to a study that seeks to find out why the majority of lesbians are obese, which now has a total price tag of $2,873,440.
The institute also devoted $2,075,611 to a program that promotes community choir for the elderly, and it continues to sponsor a number of studies that test the power of “text message interventions.”
One study, which has received $674,590, involves researchers sending text messages to drunk individuals at bars, in an attempt to get them to stop drinking. Another study involved researchers sending text messages to individuals who are considered obese, and encouraging them to lose weight. It has received $2,707,067 in funding.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that, although Health and Human Services will receive $8.6 million to research and test a possible vaccine for Ebola, they are only receiving “a fraction of NIH funding,” when compared to other programs.