WASHINGTON, July 1 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday urged Congress to end its deadlock to pass a bill on funding the development of a vaccine for Zika virus.
"The problem is right now that money is stuck in Congress," Obama said after meeting with top health officials in the White House.
Obama said the United States is "fairly confident" that an effective vaccine for Zika can be developed in "fairly short order" with the proposed funding.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a Republican-sponsored 1.1-billion-dollar bill to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus since it was short of Obama's 1.9-billion-dollar funding request and included procedures that needs funding from other health institutes.
Obama criticized Republican lawmakers for playing politics in reducing the funding, citing his proposal was based on the assessment of scientists and experts.
"It's been politics as usual rather than responding smartly to a very serious public health request," he said.
Obama said he expected Congress to get the funding done before the lawmakers leave for summer recess in August.
"So Congress should not leave, should not adjourn until they have this done," Obama said, adding that there is a chance to develop a vaccine quickly as long as Congress passes the funding bill in the next two weeks.
Zika virus has aroused concerns across the United States because of the increasing number of infants affected with microcephaly and severe fetal brain abnormalities.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects. The babies born with microcephaly tend to have small heads and will experience severe developmental problems.
So far, no local mosquito-borne Zika virus case has been reported in the continental United States, but there have been 935 imported cases of Zika virus infection, including 287 cases of pregnant women, related to travellers entering the country after contracting the virus abroad.