Senate Health chair says she’s ‘concerned’ about U.S. monkeypox response

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Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said she is “concerned” by the state of the U.S. monkeypox response in a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra.

“As I have raised on multiple calls with the Administration, I am concerned with the state of the U.S. response to monkeypox,” Murray said in her letter Tuesday. “The spread of monkeypox is a reminder that our work to protect families and strengthen our preparedness and response system is far from complete and cannot end with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Murray requested that Becerra provide a briefing on how HHS is currently responding to the monkeypox outbreak and specifically asked how the department is applying lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most recent count of confirmed monkeypox cases in the U.S. was more than 2,000. However, cases are believed to be undercounted due to limited testing capabilities.

Murray made note of the “challenges at the local level” that people, particularly men who have sex with men, have been dealing with since the start of the outbreak.

“Ensuring the public health system responds appropriately to monkeypox will require both decisive action from the Department and its state, local, and Tribal partners, as well as robust, sustained investments in public health,” she said.

The monkeypox response has been criticized by some as a repeat of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many lambasting the delayed and overly complicated rollout of vaccines and tests.

The U.S. Strategic National Stockpile had relatively few doses of Jynneos — the preferred smallpox vaccine administered to prevent monkeypox infections — when the outbreak began.

While more doses have been ordered, critics have questioned how a well-known virus with preexisting available treatments was able to spread so quickly, especially after more than two years of dealing with the novel coronavirus.

The Hill has reached out to HHS for a response to Murray’s letter.

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