The Democratic chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee wants answers from the Biden administration on its handling of monkeypox, focusing particularly on the federal government’s testing and vaccination strategy and how it plans to address the disproportionate impact the virus is having on the LGBTQ community.
In a new letter, obtained first by NY1, Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan wrote that “demand for the vaccine currently outpaces supply in major cities… in New York City, vaccine appointments fill up within minutes.”
“I am also concerned that both CDC and commercial laboratories lack adequate capacity to test people experiencing monkeypox symptoms,” she continued.
First on @NY1, from me:— Kevin Frey (@KevinFreyTV) July 20, 2022
Oversight Chair @RepMaloney wants answers from the Biden admin on its handling of #monkeypox, in particular its testing & vaccination strategy & how it plans to address the disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ+ community.
👇 Her letter to @SecBecerra pic.twitter.com/YnD5hzI3mW
Monkeypox cases have been rapidly spreading across the country, with more than 2,100 cases confirmed in the U.S. as of yesterday, according to the CDC. More than a quarter of those cases are in New York City.
Health leaders worry the numbers tallied so far are an undercount.
“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,” Maloney said in a statement.
Maloney has served in Congress for three decades, and is facing a tough primary election on Aug. 23 against another longtime Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jerry Nadler.
On Wednesday, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Basset said there are not yet enough monkeypox vaccines for everyone who wants or is eligible to get one.
In the letter, Maloney offers some praise for the Biden administration, commending the vaccine strategy announced on June 28 and steps the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is taking to “make testing more accessible.”
However, she also called on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to reevaluate “their protocols… to keep up” with the outbreak, pointing in particular to barriers reportedly faced by those who contracted the virus and attempted to obtain antiviral medication.
“Currently, CDC must approve the administration of this medication on a case-by-case basis,” she wrote.
Maloney is requesting that HHS brief her staff by Aug. 5.
Earlier this week, another New York Democrat — Rep. Ritchie Torres - called for an investigation into “the failed federal response to the monkeypox outbreak.”
INBOX: @RepRitchie requests an investigation of "the failed federal response to the monkeypox outbreak."— Kevin Frey (@KevinFreyTV) July 19, 2022
"The US has a long and ugly history of ignoring the public health needs of the LGBTQ community. For many in the community, history is repeating itself."#monkeypox pic.twitter.com/Jpbgu96gG3
In a letter addressed to both the Inspector General of the HHS and the Government Accountability Office, the Bronx congressman wrote, “The US has a long and ugly history of ignoring the public health needs of the LGBTQ community. For many in the community, history is repeating itself.”
And in yet another letter last week, Carolyn Maloney joined with fellow New York Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney, Jamaal Bowman, and Mondaire Jones in calling for the CDC to ensure that the LGBTQ community is not a “casualty of a cumbersome or bureaucratic response.”
“We ask that you work to quickly grow the supply of vaccines and therapeutics necessary to curb the current outbreak and protect those at risk and request that you share the method used to determine the number of doses each region is allocated, as we believe New Yorkers are among the most at risk,” they wrote.