You know the great thing about Conservatives? They never run out of horrors to be terrified of, because they’re always creating new ones. It’s kind of a marvelous machine of self-perpetuating terror; making people more terrified of solutions than they are problems, which then cause problems to be terrified of, which then require more of those terrifying solutions. Really…is there anything more useless than that?
The graph above illustrates the national funding given to the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s premier biomedical research facility located in Bethesda, Maryland. Part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, this lab is the government-owned entity responsible for solving public health problems both present and future. And they’re very good at knowing what’s coming in the future.
For instance, in 2001, the NIH began developing its first-generation Ebola vaccine. This, following a dramatic hike in funding under the only Arkansas hick the Republicans didn’t like, President Bill Clinton. But, almost immediately after starting on the vaccine, a funny thing happened to the NIH’s funding — it took a slightly noticeable dip southward, as billions of dollars were pulled to pay for Bush & Cheney’s Adventures in Oil-Land.
And its funding has been sliding downhill ever since, forcing any project that wasn’t critically important to go on the back burner — projects like the Ebola vaccine, which the NIH has been tantalizingly close to perfecting for several years. Unfortunately, the funding just hasn’t been there to get the “bugs” worked out.
Dr. Francis Collins recent told the Huffington Post that a usable Ebola vaccine almost certainly would have been developed had the NIH “been on a stable research support trajectory.” He says, of the Ebola vaccine, and the treatment therapies that got put on the back-burner:
“We would have been a year or two ahead of where we are, which would have made all the difference.”
Research stalled on a fifth-generation vaccine because of lack of funding, a vaccine that showed very positive results. The vaccine, which has only been tested on monkeys so far, showed a slight fever in some cases, which was worrying enough to warrant more testing and tweaking. They can’t prove yet that it’s safe or reliable enough to use on humans, primarily because they ran out of money to test it some years ago. But, if they’d had the money to do so, it’s all but certain the NIH would have refined the vaccine to a useable state by now.
The same goes for post-infection therapies, like the ZMapp cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies. ZMapp has had an impressive degree of success, which researchers have know about and been studying for some time. Unfortunately, the stockpiles of the medication are nowhere near large enough. Because, you guessed it…budget cuts.
Other drugs like Brincidofovir have shown promise, and have already been used on an Ebola patient in Nebraska. And they have enough doses of that to treat about 16,000 people. But, again, it hasn’t undergone human trials yet because of…say it with us…George W. Bush’s budget cuts.
So, where’s our magical Private Sector when we need them? According to Rand Paul, the Private Sector will save us all.
Turns out, private pharmaceutical companies have known about the risk of Ebola contagion for 40 years, but they never bothered developing a vaccine for it. Why?
Because there was no money in it.
And officials at the NIH are quite confident they could have done so at any point. According to Anthony Fauci, Director of the NIH’s Allergy and Infectious Disease wing:
“There’s nothing magical about getting a drug or a vaccine for Ebola. We likely would’ve had it years ago if there were major investments on the part of a company.”
But, all is not lost, for it turns out not everyone in The Private Sector is utterly useless. The ZMapp trials are getting a boost from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, and the U.S. government to fund trials of the ZMapp treatment.
And now, Canada’s Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, Biocyst Pharma and even GlaxoSmithKline are getting into the race for an Ebola treatment.
Now that there’s some money in it.
In the meantime, 4,000 people are dead in Africa of a flesh-eating microbe, Bush got to stand on an aircraft carrier, and Rupert Murdoch bought some oil fields in Syria. So, all is well.