Washington: US President Barack Obama says a vaccine for the Zika virus could be developed in “fairly short order” if Congress acts quickly to pass a bill to prevent the spread of the disease.

Mr Obama says researchers are beginning to develop and test a vaccine for the mosquito-borne virus. He says that if the effort is well funded he’s “fairly confident” an effective vaccine could be developed before the virus spreads to the continental US.

The president is trying to pressure Congress to pass a Zika-prevention bill that has been stalled for weeks. He criticised lawmakers for “playing politics” with public health. He says lawmakers should not take their summer recess before passing a bill.

Mr Obama met with his top public health advisers at the White House on Friday and warned Americans that unless lawmakers approved funding soon to combat the Zika virus, some families in the United States would face “tragedies that can last a lifetime”.

“We feel fairly confident that we can develop a vaccine for Zika and that would help a whole lot of people and allow us to get out in front of this problem before it’s in the continental United States, but that requires resources,” Mr Obama said.

“The problem is right now that money is stuck in Congress. And we have not seen the House and the Senate come together in a sensible way to put forward the dollars that we have requested that have been budgeted to get the job done.”

The House has passed a funding bill administration officials have described as inadequate for the task, and earlier this week, Senate Democrats blocked a $US1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) funding package to fight the mosquito-borne virus because of “poison pill” measures.

People are “trying to attach legislation on a bunch of unrelated topics to this funding,” Mr Obama said. “It’s been politics as usual rather than responding smartly to a very serious public health request.”

“Politics need to be set aside,” he added.

Sarah Kohn performs an ultrasound on a pregnant rhesus macaque monkey infected with the Zika virus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US. Rhesus macaque monkeys make a good model for studying how Zika infects people. Photo: UW-Madison/AP

Republicans, for their part, said that it is the White House’s refusal to compromise that has delayed the deployment of new funds.

A successful Zika vaccine could still help allay fears of the virus spreading during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games due to start on August 5.

AP, Washington Post

Staff ReporterGENERAL
Washington: US President Barack Obama says a vaccine for the Zika virus could be developed in “fairly short order” if Congress acts quickly to pass a bill to prevent the spread of the disease. Mr Obama says researchers are beginning to develop and test a vaccine for the mosquito-borne virus....