Budget Cuts Slow Ebola Research

Starving agencies of their needed funds could have deadly consequences when it comes to agencies responsible for preventing and fighting infectious diseases such as Ebola. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been working on Ebola vaccine for a decade, but research stalled as Congress keeps taking away its funding – $5 billion over 10 years, adjusted for inflation.

"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,'" 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.”

Last year NIH warned Congress of the consequences of the highly-political budget cuts known as sequestration, but its plea to avert those cuts fell on deaf ears, and now the country found itself completely unprepared for the Ebola outbreak.

But the development of Ebola vaccine is not the only casualty of budget cuts. In 2013 alone, Congress took away 5% of NIH’s budget, or $1.5 billion. These sequestration cuts effectively delayed progress in research and medical breakthroughs, including better cancer drugs with fewer side effects and a universal flu vaccine that could fight every strain of influence without needing a yearly shot. The 16-day government shutdown caused further damage as scientists were not allowed to work. The 2014 omnibus spending bill left NIH $700 million underfunded. That’s hundreds of life-saving grants unfunded.

Because of cuts and stagnant budgets, NIH has lost 25% of its purchasing power since 2003 and is losing a generation of young scientists. Indeed, a smaller, cash-strapped government does not translate into an efficient government like many in Congress want people to believe.


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