Epidemiologists warn of critical moment to contain monkeypox

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Gregg Gonsalves:

The point is, is that they have moved incredibly slowly.

There were early criticisms that the testing for monkeypox was being too tightly controlled by state health departments and the CDC, leading to a bottleneck in people getting access to testing. A couple of weeks ago, the federal government gave permission to large commercial diagnostic providers to ramp up testing, but, still, it’s creating a bottleneck in the entire system by the slowness of the movement at the White House and the administration.

TPOXX, the drug that can treat the infection, it’s available under very strict scrutiny by FDA and the federal government, in which doctors have to do several hours of paperwork to get the drug for one patient. And then there’s the vaccine, right?

We have one vaccine, JYNNEOS, or JYNNEOS, which is available to prevent this infection. We have the largest stockpile of this vaccine in the world, but yet we have been able to really distribute more than about 140,000 doses over the past couple of months.

And there’s about 200,000 doses sitting in a warehouse in Denmark. It’s not very clear that the administration knows what it’s doing in terms of coordination. The TPOXX treatment is one kind of medical care that people need.

As your interviewees spoke in the segment before this, there’s enormous physical pain that many of these men who have monkeypox are experiencing, and they’re going into the hospital to get treated for this, coming out with hospital bills that strain their own finances, they can’t pay for.

This should have been set up and staged six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, in the beginning of June. Now we’re hearing we will have enough vaccine by Thanksgiving. By Thanksgiving? Really? After we have, what, 10,000, 20,000 cases in the U.S.?

The big thing here is that we could have contained this outbreak. We could have stopped it in its tracks. Now the chance of it becoming endemic, of it sticking its roots into the country is quite imminent, right? And we may be looking at living with monkeypox for a long time to come, not just in the gay community, but it spills over into other communities, in which close physical contact is common, homeless shelters, prisons, potentially other kinds of settings, health clubs.

We may be dealing with this on a much larger societal scale.

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