Rep. Ritchie Torres Calls on HHS and GAO to Conduct Investigations of the Federal Monkeypox Outbreak Response

Jul 18, 2022

Bronx, NY – Today, Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15) called on the Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) and the Government Accountability office (GAO) to conduct full investigations into the failed federal government response to the monkeypox outbreak.

As of July 15th, there are 12,556 reported cases of monkeypox around the world, with just under 1,500 cases in the United States. Of the nearly 1,500 cases, about one third of cases, 489, are in New York State. It is crucial that the federal government take immediate action to help prevent the continued community spread of monkeypox.

A highly containable virus has quickly become uncontained by inexplicable delays in distributing both tests and vaccines. Even though the US had at its disposal more than a million doses of the Jynneos vaccine the FDA took two months to approve the distribution of those doses, allowing the virus to entrench itself as a sexually transmitted infection in the meantime. These failures demonstrate a clear unpreparedness in our federal government to face potential public health crises – and it is our most vulnerable populations that will pay the price for the federal government’s negligence.

“The US has a long and ugly history of ignoring the public health needs of the LGBTQ community. For many in the community, history is repeating itself. When there is an infectious disease outbreak, the federal government has an obligation to make vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics immediately and widely available. Instead of acting with a sense of urgency, both the CDC and FDA moved at a bureaucratic pace, enabling the virus to spread uncontrollably for two months,” said Congressman Ritchie Torres (NY-15).

“It’s almost as if we forgot about the HIV crisis, it’s almost as if it never happened. It’s almost as if we’re still not in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. We in The Bronx know what government disinvestment looks like. So the minute that the monkeypox outbreak began, we could already tell where this was going based on the federal response. We had a better opportunity to contain this health crisis and the federal government failed us,” said Ed Garcia, activist and Executive Director of Welcome2TheBronx.

“We ask that with this new monkeypox threat that all segments of all the population be treated not only equally, but equitably. So that stigma doesn’t fester and contribute to the chaos that my community knows all too well. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past and make sure that resources are not just made available to a segment of the community, but rather that all who need it at a time that it is necessary,” said Sage Rivera Chief Development Programs Officer for Destination Tomorrow. “Our nation has an unfavorable past when it comes to adequately addressing the health concerns of the LGBTQ community. This grim history must not be repeated, and the government must do everything it can to protect all Citizens.”

The inaction of the federal government to the monkeypox outbreak is not only unacceptable, it has proven to be dangerous. A full investigation is necessary to see how the federal government has again failed the people of New York, and Rep. Torres is looking forward to its findings.

Find text of the letter here.

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