San Francisco politicians on monkeypox response: Federal government has another 'public health failure'

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

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Two San Francisco politicians are criticizing the Biden administration over its response to the U.S. monkeypox outbreak. 

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

“Monkeypox is a growing public health issue in our community. While the virus can infect anyone, it is particularly impacting gay and bisexual men. We have very little time to contain this outbreak and prevent it from getting 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 once again had a public health failure, this time by failing to order enough vaccine doses to prepare for this foreseeable outbreak.”

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

The Senate Housing Chair and Haney – who represents California’s 17th Assembly District – called for a dramatic increase in the supply of available vaccine and swift distribution to communities most heavily impacted. 

While experts caution 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 exploded, a leading adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO) said in May that monkeypox had likely been transmitted from sexual activity at raves. 

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Since then, the United Nations health agency has reported more than 6,000 cases in nearly 60 countries worldwide. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 791 confirmed monkeypox virus and orthopoxvirus cases in the U.S.

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

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

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

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

At the beginning of July – following June Pride events – the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ordered an additional 2.5 million doses.

However, slow testing and lack of supplies have hindered the ability to monitor case counts and The New York Times notes the number of monkeypox cases in the U.S. is likely to be much higher. 

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There’s also the matter of monkeypox spreading nontraditionally, with patients developing only a few genital pox. 

Monkeypox cases are highest in California and New York. 

New York City’s online system for vaccine appointments glitched last week and doses were not widely distributed. 

A man awaits his Jynneos vaccine dose as the city launches its first inoculation campaign against monkeypox in Washington, U.S., June 28, 2022. 

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

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

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation reportedly only received 60 Jynneos doses, according to SFGate.

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

“We have no time to spare. It’s completely unacceptable that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and other community clinics are receiving so few doses,” they added. “We need a sufficient quantity of vaccines so that everyone who is at risk has access.”

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