San Francisco politicians on monkeypox response: Federal government has yet another ‘public health failure’

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Two San Francisco politicians are criticizing the Biden administration for its response to the monkeypox outbreak in the US.

In a joint statement, Sen. Scott Weiner and Rep. Matt Haney wrote that the federal government had yet another “public health failure.”

“Monkeypox is a growing public health concern in our community. Although the virus can infect anyone, it particularly affects gay and bisexual men. We have very little time to contain this outbreak and prevent it from spiraling out of control and potentially becoming endemic,” the pair said.

“The good news is that we have an effective vaccine that prevents monkeypox,” they continued. “The bad news is that the federal government has yet again suffered a public health failure, this time by failing to order enough vaccine doses to prepare for this foreseeable outbreak.”

Workers sit outside DC Health’s first monkeypox vaccination clinic, which is administering the first doses of Jynneos vaccine distributed in the US capital, in Washington, US, June 28, 2022.
(REUTERS/Gavino Garay)

The Senate Speaker and Haney — who represents California’s 17th Assembly District — called for a dramatic increase in the supply of the available vaccine and its rapid distribution to the communities most affected.

Although experts warn that anyone is at potential risk of infection, the majority of new cases have been seen in gay or bisexual men.

In Europe, where cases have surged, a top World Health Organization (WHO) adviser said in May that monkeypox was likely transmitted through sexual activity at raves.

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Since then, the UN health agency has reported more than 6,000 cases in nearly 60 countries around the world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 791 confirmed cases of monkeypox and orthopoxvirus in the United States

In response, the Biden administration ordered doses of Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos vaccine.

This 2003 electron microscope image, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows oval-shaped mature monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a human skin sample associated with the outbreak of prairie dogs in 2003. Monkeypox, a disease that rarely occurs outside of Africa, was identified by European and American health authorities in recent days.

This 2003 electron microscope image, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows oval-shaped mature monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a human skin sample associated with the outbreak of prairie dogs in 2003. Monkeypox, a disease that rarely occurs outside of Africa, was identified by European and American health authorities in recent days.
(Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP)

On Thursday, it announced it would provide an additional 144,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine to states and jurisdictions.

In early July – following June’s Pride events – the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ordered an additional 2.5 million doses.

However, slow testing and a lack of supplies have hampered the ability to track the number of cases, and The New York Times notes that the number of monkeypox cases in the U.S. is likely to be much higher.

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There is also the issue of the unconventional spread of monkeypox, with patients developing only a few genital herpes.

Cases of monkeypox are highest in California and New York.

New York’s online system for recording vaccines crashed last week and doses were not widely distributed.

A man waits for his dose of Jynneos vaccine as the city launches its first monkeypox vaccination campaign in Washington, U.S., June 28, 2022.

A man waits for his dose of Jynneos vaccine as the city launches its first monkeypox vaccination campaign in Washington, U.S., June 28, 2022.
(REUTERS/Gavino Garay)

In the Bay Area and the Golden State, cases have also risen, but community and LGBTQIA+ leaders said vaccine shortages are exacerbating the situation.

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has received just 60 doses of Jynneos, according to SFGate.

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“The federal government must dramatically increase supplies of the vaccine and distribute it to affected local communities as quickly as possible,” Weiner and Haney urged.

“We don’t have any time. It is completely unacceptable that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and other community clinics are receiving so few doses,” they added. “We need enough vaccines so that everyone at risk has access.”

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