A global health initiative to prevent and respond to infectious disease epidemics may be cut back as funding for the program dwindles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been working with more than 30 countries on responses to future infectious disease outbreaks, may scale back its work on the global health agenda or end it altogether, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The CDC activities are currently funded through a five-year supplemental package that was allocated for infectious disease threats in response to the Ebola epidemic. The funding, which included $582 million, will run out at the end of fiscal year 2019, the Journal reported.
The newspaper obtained a copy of a recent email sent by the CDC to global health center leaders. In that email, the agency said that if funding remains at current levels it will have to focus on 10 priority countries in the fall of 2019: India, Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Jordan and Guatemala.
But former CDC Director Tom Frieden told the publication that if the agency does pull back its efforts it could put an end to critical work. Countries will be more likely to have outbreaks and less likely to stop them themselves, he said.
Indeed, one of the issues that hampered the response to the Zika outbreak in the U.S was a struggle over funding for preventive measures and vaccine development.
In the email obtained by the Journal, Rebecca Martin, director of the CDC’s Center for Global Health, said that even if the agency has to scale back efforts it will continue programs that combat HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, flu and immunization programs.
Tom Frieden is now president and chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, which is working to strengthen epidemic preparedness.