Health Experts Tell Senators They’re Hopeful of Zika Vaccine, but There’s Much to Learn

Scientists and researchers are hopeful about a Zika vaccine, but there is much more research to be done on the disease, officials told lawmakers Wednesday.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a roundtable on how to prepare for and protect the nation from the Zika virus. It occurred only a day after Senate Democrats blocked a bill negotiated by House and Senate Republicans that would provide $1.1 billion to fighting the disease. Democrats claimed the bill was a non-starter because it blocked funding for women’s health centers, such as Planned Parenthood. Another vote will be held on the same measure after the July Fourth weekend.

However, Wednesday’s roundtable generally avoided partisan sparks and focused on both scientific and practical ways to combat Zika. These efforts center around both mosquito control and medical research and development.

The problem is, relatively little is known about Zika.

“Because its been an understudied virus, we simply don’t know much about it,” said David O’Connor, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Many questions remain as to how the virus is transmitted, under what circumstances pregnant women are at risk and when non-pregnant people are at risk.

But O’Connor is hopeful about finding a vaccine. “In this case, there’s lots of biological reasons why it should be fairly straightforward to make a Zika vaccine,” he said.

Rear Admiral Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the agency’s research efforts are underway.

“It just takes time to do the necessary steps,” she said. “People are working 24/7 to get those trials ready.”

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said last month that testing on a vaccine would begin in September.

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