Chairwoman Maloney Presses Biden Administration to Increase Testing, Treatment, and Vaccines for Monkeypox Virus
Washington, D.C. (July 20, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), expressing concern over the rapidly increasing spread of the monkeypox virus (MPV) across the United States, and urging HHS to act swiftly to ensure that vaccines, testing, and treatment are available to all people who seek them, including people with MPV symptoms or suspected exposure. Chairwoman Maloney issued the following statement on today’s letter:
“The federal government must take decisive action to mitigate the threat monkeypox poses to people across the United States. In my own district, I have seen how the spread has threatened the health of my constituents—particularly the LGBTQ+ community and people with less access to health care. I am pleased that the Biden-Harris Administration announced a vaccine strategy to protect high-risk individuals from monkeypox, and I urge the Administration to build on this progress with additional steps to ensure that an adequate supply of testing, treatment, and vaccines is available to keep New York City and every community safe from this public health threat.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2,100 MPV cases have been confirmed in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. This represents a more than threefold increase in cases over the last 13 days. Currently, the MPV outbreak in the United States is disproportionately impacting members of the LGBTQ+ community, who already experience higher rates of illness and health challenges and may face increased barriers to obtaining health care.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved JYNNEOS vaccine can prevent infection if administered before—or directly after—exposure to the virus. However, demand for the vaccine far outpaces supply in most major cities across the country, including New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles; which are experiencing the brunt of the current outbreak. More than 1.5 million people in the United States are currently eligible for MPV vaccination, but as of July 15, only 132,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered nationwide. In New York City, vaccine appointments fill up within minutes.
Although the Biden Administration has taken steps to ramp up MPV testing, both the CDC and commercial laboratories do not currently have the capacity to test all individuals who are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed, and many hospital systems and health care providers are not yet testing for the virus. Experts warn that the failure to ramp up testing in the early stages of the outbreak has likely foreclosed the possibility of containment of community spread.
In addition to access to vaccines and testing, the Committee is concerned that patients who have contracted MPV may be unable to obtain appropriate treatment. Access to TPOXX, the only antiviral medication clinically shown to decrease duration of disease and reduce the risk of fatality, is limited because the CDC must approve the administration of this medication on a case-by-case basis. This challenge in accessing treatment implicates health equity, as evidence suggests that the patients most likely to access TPOXX currently have private insurance or a primary care physician, which many Americans lack.
Given the serious threat MPV poses, the Committee requested information from HHS by August 3, 2022, on the steps the Department is taking to ensure an adequate supply of MPV vaccine, expand access to MPV testing, facilitate affordable treatment, release vaccine and antivirals from the Strategic National Stockpile, and address the disproportionate threat the outbreak poses to America’s LGBTQ+ community.
The Committee also requests a staff briefing by August 5, 2022.
Click here to read today’s letter.