Rick Scott directs $25M toward Zika vaccine research
In an unusual move, Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday he'll use his emergency powers to direct $25 million from the state for Zika research.
The Florida Department of Health will dole out the money through a competitive grant for speeding up the development of a Zika vaccine and "innovative, cost-effective" methods to test for the virus.
Scott has traveled to Washington, D.C., to urge congressional action and routinely called out the federal government on cable news for failing to pass a Zika funding bill. On Thursday, he did the same.
"Every minute that passes that Congress doesn’t approve funding means more time is lost from researching this virus," Scott said in a statement. "For the sake of our state’s future children, this is time we cannot afford to waste."
The first cases of Zika spread by mosquitoes in the continental United States began this July in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.
To date, there have been 874 Florida cases of the virus, which is linked to birth defects, according to the Florida Department of Health. While most of those cases are connected to travel abroad, 92 have been linked to local infections spreading, most notably in Miami Beach and Wynwood, though additional locally-spread cases were found in Pinellas, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
As governor, Scott can allocate funds in emergencies without the Legislature's approval. In February, he declared a public health emergency to address the burgeoning threat Zika posed.
In July, Scott expanded the emergency declaration to authorize $26.2 million in spending for mosquito control, testing pregnant women and preventing Zika's spread. Last week, he announced another $10 million for that cause.