Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) pressed the Biden administration on Friday to increase the volume of monkeypox vaccines to his state, which has endured the highest number of infections in the country.
Padilla urged the administration to work together to address that outbreak and increase access to the Jynneos vaccine, a smallpox inoculation used to prevent monkeypox, in a letter addressed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response for the Department of Health and Human Services Dawn O’Connell.
“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,” Padilla wrote.
“However, across the country, state and local health officials have reported that limited vaccine supplies are not keeping pace with the growing number of people seeking appointments, a gap that continues to fuel anxiety about a virus that is generally unfamiliar to Americans…,” he continued.
Cases of monkeypox in the United States reached 2,000 this week, and a majority of them have been recorded in the state of California.
The disease causes fever, swollen lymph nodes, chills backache and exhaustion, and, most famously, lesions that spread on the body and later fall off.
The virus can enter the body through broken skin and, Padilla said, “can infect anyone.”
However, a high number of infections have been observed in men who have sex with men as well as members of the transgender community.
Padilla said that often health care services are “too inaccessible” or “otherwise denied” to members of the at-risk community, specifically the LGBT community.
“It is critical for vaccine access to be equitable, even in the face of high demand,” Padilla concluded.
The California senator’s letter comes a day after a coalition of LGBT groups raised the alarm over the monkeypox outbreak in the Golden State. They warned the federal government that if there was not an effort made to increase testing and access to vaccines, California could become the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S.
“The rate of infection and unmet needs will slowly push California to become the epicenter of the virus. Though hMPXV is known to have a short incubation period and is not fatal, fear of the virus is growing,” the groups wrote.
At the end of June, both New York City and Washington, D.C., ran out of vaccines less than one day after launching their immunization initiatives.
Sen. Patty Murrary (D-Wash.) has also expressed concern to the Biden administration that the U.S.’s response to the monkeypox outbreak was lacking.