• Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday declined to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for all Americans, sparking outrage from Democrats. 
  • “We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,” Azar told members of Congress. 
  • On Monday, the president asked Congress for $2.5 billion in funding to fight the coronavirus — more than $1 billion of that funding will be designated for vaccine development. 
  • Democratic leadership criticized the president’s request as “anemic” and inadequate.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday declined to promise that a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable for all Americans. 

“We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,” Azar told members of Congress during a hearing concerning the coronavirus outbreak and the administration’s budget request. “Price controls won’t get us there.”

—Michael McAuliff (@mmcauliff) February 26, 2020

—NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 26, 2020

Democrats and other critics quickly condemned Azar. 

“Secretary Azar is refusing to promise that a Coronavirus vaccine will be affordable to every American. Kick them out of office,” Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, tweeted Wednesday evening.

The progressive group Center for American Progress tweeted, “This is a global health crisis, and everyone should have the right to medication that will help protect them from this virus.”

While government and private researchers around the world are working quickly to develop a vaccine for the virus, it is estimated any vaccine is still several months away. The best preventative measure is regular thorough handwashing.

On Monday, the president asked Congress for $2.5 billion in funding to fight the coronavirus — more than $1 billion of that funding will be designated for vaccine development. Democratic leadership criticized the president’s request as “anemic” and inadequate.

As of Wednesday, the US has confirmed 60 cases of the novel coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The virus causes a disease known as COVID-19, which has killed nearly 2,800 people and infected more than 81,000 since December. The vast majority of cases and deaths have been in China.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed cases in six states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, and Wisconsin. Officials have recorded two cases of human-to-human transmission among family members.

Aria Bendix, Rosie Perper, and Lauren Frias contributed to this report. 

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