WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to prevent the global monkeypox outbreak from becoming entrenched and spreading further in the United States, U.S. Senator Jack Reed joined with several colleagues in urging the Biden administration to take coordinated action to address the shortage of vaccines.  In a letter with 21 of his Senate colleagues last week, Reed urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to “work with urgency to take the necessary action to respond to this public health concern and ensure adequate doses and equitable distribution of the vaccine in the United States.”  Now the CDC is announcing that monkeypox is “a nationally notifiable condition,” and starting August 1, state health departments nationwide will be required to report confirmed or probable monkeypox cases to the CDC within 24 hours.

 

“Right now, monkeypox is rare and we need an effective, coordinated strategy to keep it that way.  We must prevent this virus from spreading and putting more pressure on an already over-burdened health system that’s been strained by COVID-19.  People need to come forward if they are infected so they can get treatment.  And having reliable, standardized data will help the CDC track and prevent the spread.  I commend the CDC for taking action to coordinate surveillance efforts, and I will continue pressing the Biden Administration to make a vaccine accessible to all who need it,” said Senator Reed.

 

Monkeypox is a virus that can spread from person-to-person through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids.  According to the CDC, monkeypox is rarely fatal but can be quite uncomfortable and painful, with symptoms including fever, headache, and a rash that looks like pimples or blisters.  To date, nearly 3,600 cases of monkeypox from across the country have been reported to the CDC, including about a dozen in Rhode Island.

 

In their letter last week, the Senators noted: “Monkeypox is spread through direct contact and can infect anyone. Yet health care services are too often inaccessible or otherwise denied to members of at-risk communities, particularly the LGBTQ+ community.  It is critical for vaccine access to be equitable, even in the face of high demand. Indeed, demand is so high for vaccination that appointment slots made available by public health agencies have been filled nearly instantly, and some sites have even crashed due to high traffic from our constituents.”

 

Monkeypox has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

 

People who suspect they have been exposed to monkeypox should contact their health care provider.  The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) has established a monkeypox task force that can be reached by people who need assistance at: (401) 222-2577.

 

Full text of the letter follows:

 

Dear Assistant Secretary O’Connell and Dr. Walensky:

 

We write to express concern about the increasing number of monkeypox cases in the United States, and to urge the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to apply an interagency approach to address this outbreak, including by increasing access to the JYNNEOS monkeypox and smallpox vaccine in the United States.

 

The United States has invested billions of dollars to develop, manufacture, and stockpile doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine as a component of a federal biosecurity program. We understand that this vaccine is the current preferred option for monkeypox vaccination given its approval by the FDA, ease of administration, and general tolerability.

 

However, across the country, state and local and health officials have reported that the limited vaccine supplies are not keeping pace with the growing number of people seeking appointments1, a gap that continues to fuel anxiety about a virus that is generally unfamiliar to Americans, who are urgently looking for solutions.

 

Monkeypox is spread through direct contact and can infect anyone. Yet health care services are too often inaccessible or otherwise denied to members of at-risk communities, particularly the LGBTQ+ community. It is critical for vaccine access to be equitable, even in the face of high demand. Indeed, demand is so high for vaccination that appointment slots made available by public health agencies have been filled nearly instantly2, and some sites have even crashed due to high traffic from our constituents3.

 

In light of this high demand and the communities that have been impacted by the outbreak in the United States to date, we implore you to work with urgency to take the necessary action to respond to this public health concern and ensure adequate doses and equitable distribution of the vaccine in the United States. We look forward to your response and continued partnership in addressing this public health concern.

 

Sincerely,