I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but … monkeypox is coming for us. In fact, according to epidemiologists and public health officials, it’s already here. And although we have a vaccine that’s approved to prevent the virus, the red tape took forever to cut.
Monkeypox is quickly spiraling into epidemic levels in the U.S., The Washington Post reports. But thankfully, The Daily Beast reports that Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted certification for over 1 million doses of vaccine ready for distribution. But, damn, the FDA certainly took its time.
Jynneos is manufactured by Bavarian Nordic, a company that is headquartered in Denmark. In order for the shots to get to the U.S., they need to be flown in on “special planes,” says Peter Marks, who oversees vaccines for the FDA—planes that are able to keep the shots at the correct temperature. But, he adds, the planes can only “load 150,000 to 160,000 doses at a time.”
Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law Center, told The Daily Beast that the shots stuck in Europe feel like “déjà vu all over again.”
“When you have a fast-moving, out-of-control spread of monkeypox in the United States, when the White House goes the extra mile and purchases a million doses, and then to not have them available to respond in a smart, effective way, it’s intolerable. There literally is no excuse,” Gostin says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describe monkeypox as a “rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.” The CDC adds that it is in the same family of viruses as smallpox, with similar but milder symptoms. It is rarely fatal.
The first U.S. cases of the monkeypox virus were discovered in May. Since then, over 1,000 cases in 41 states have been confirmed, and the government has repeatedly assured folks that there’s an ample supply of the vaccine in national stockpiles.
Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the CDC’s Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases Center, told Reuters that the country has a “good stock” due to the possibility of needing it for smallpox.
White House coronavirus coordinator Ashish Jha confirmed to the Post that more doses of the vaccine are due from Denmark this week and “in the days and weeks ahead,” adding, “This is not some novel virus. We have tests, therapies, we have vaccines. … We are going to get our arms around this thing.”
Jha also noted that the monkeypox virus has disproportionately impacted gay and bisexual men. Which is why, the Post reports, health advocates from both Prep4All and Partners in Health have been pushing for more vaccines
Data scientist Michael Donnelly tells The Daily Beast, “The FDA has their heads in the ground…Thousands of GBTQ Americans are denied these vital vaccines every day while they sit in a warehouse in Denmark. It’s not a question of if this process will cause a delay—the delay is already here.”
However, with over 10,000 cases of the virus reported globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) is holding another emergency meeting on whether or not monkeypox should be declared a global health emergency, and public health authorities are demanding the FDA waive the vaccine’s inspection requirements.
New York City Councilman Erik Bottcher told The Daily Beast that “the FDA has already been contemplating it. We should absolutely use the European Medicines Agency’s determination that the Bavarian Nordic facility is in compliance.”
Thankfully, the FDA finally granted certification to the Danish medical facility that makes the vaccines today, and the shots will soon be on their way to the United States.
Amid ongoing criticism of its response, Politico reports that the White House is teaming up with GLAAD for a monkeypox briefing aimed at LGBTQ+ social media “influencers” in the hopes of sharing information with their followers: how it spreads, who’s at risk, who is eligible for the vaccine, and why the community is at the center of the outbreak.
The bottom line is that we should know better. We’ve been through this before and we know that the faster we get shots in arms, the better off we all are.
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