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Funding Issues Delayed Development of Ebola Vaccine, NIH Director Stated

Update Date: Oct 13, 2014 12:47 PM EDT
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According to the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Francis Collins, the development of the Ebola vaccine was delayed due to complications with funding. Dr. Collins added that these financial issues negatively impacted research on other infectious diseases.

"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,'" Dr. Collins told The Huffington Post. "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. We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference."

Collins stressed the importance of controlling the Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 4,000 people from West Africa. Collins has urged Congress to pass emergency supplemental appropriations. Some Democratic lawmakers have also drafted new legislation to increase funding for the NIH to $42.6 billion by 2021. The NIH's budget during the 2013 fiscal year was $29.31 billion. Despite these concerns, there has been no evidence that any measures will be taken.

"Certainly there's been a lot of fear [in the] response from people who are probably at essentially zero risk, that this might somehow take over our country, which is really not going to happen," said Collins. "And despite all the assurances ... it still hasn't quite sunk in. There's still the cable news people who are whipping this up, and frankly sometimes using it for political purposes to sort of shoot at the government."

Collins said that even though the Ebola outbreak is the worst one in our history, it would most likely not become an epidemic on U.S. soil. However, the outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea still needs to be controlled.

Collins added, "If we wait that long to solve this, we will have basically failed with the more traditional measures of contact-tracing to get this epidemic under control."

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