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E&C GOP Leaders to HHS Secretary: The Biden Admin Underestimated Monkeypox Outbreak


08.09.22

Washington, D.C. —In a new letter, Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA) are raising the alarm about the Biden administration’s slow response and failure to get the monkeypox outbreak under control. They specifically request U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to brief and update members on the ongoing public health response.  

Key excerpt from their letter: 

“We are troubled that CDC and HHS officials underestimated the severity of the threat posed by monkeypox. The administration could have, and should have acted earlier to slow the spread of the virus in the U.S. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials should have been particularly vigilant and proactively responded to any potential health threat observed throughout the rest of the world. Given that we were better prepared for monkeypox than we were for COVID-19, with an already developed test and medical countermeasures, there is no excuse for the inaction of administration officials whose sole responsibility is to protect the health and wellbeing of our nation. Now, the American public will be forced to endure the spread of yet another viral disease that has the potential to take a serious toll on the already-suffering health, economy, and livelihood of communities across the nation. 

Rodgers, Guthrie, and Griffith also warn the administration to not repeat the mistakes of the COVID-19 school shutdowns:

“We are particularly concerned about recent reports of monkeypox spread among children at daycares and the potential for further outbreaks once schools return in the fall. Given the failures of the government, public health officials, and teachers unions during COVID-19 to ensure children were able to continue learning and developing while appropriately managing the risk of COVID-19, it is crucial that this administration does not repeat the same mistakes. We must ensure future outbreaks are mitigated, but monkeypox cannot be used as another excuse for public health officials and teachers unions to shutdown schools and force other extreme and ineffective mitigation measures that harm children’s learning and emotional and social development.” 

The members ask Secretary Becerra to provide a briefing to members of the Energy and Commerce Committee on the U.S. public health response to the ongoing outbreak, including:

  • A status update on the current number of cases—globally and in the U.S.—and where those cases have been detected, and to the extent known, the age of those cases.  
  • How, if at all, the current outbreak is different from previous outbreaks in areas where monkeypox has traditionally been endemic.  
  • Information on any authorities being used, or actions being taken by the administration as a result of declaring monkeypox a PHE. 
  • Information on vaccine availability, distribution, and the government’s plan to purchase additional doses.  
  • Status of treatments for monkeypox. 
  • Information on laboratory capacity for testing. 
  • What CDC is doing to eliminate bottlenecks to ensure testing is decentralized and easily accessible.  
  • The amount of funding that the administration has spent to date on the monkeypox response, including a breakdown of how those funds have been used. 
  • Information on any plans that have been developed by the administration to contain the current outbreak, including any plans regarding guidance to colleges, day care centers, and schools in the event of a diagnosed case of monkeypox among students, faculty, or staff at those facilities. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter to Secretary Becerra. 

Note: House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) released the following statement on August 4, 2022, after the Biden administration declared a public health emergency (PHE) for the current monkeypox outbreak in the United States. 

“After months of delay, Secretary Becerra and the Biden administration have declared the current monkeypox outbreak to be a public health emergency in the United States. It didn’t have to be this way. The declaration of a PHE is an admission by this administration of its abject failure to get this disease under control. When COVID-19 appeared on the world stage, we didn’t know what it was. We didn’t have diagnostic tests, therapeutics, or vaccines. For monkeypox, we had an already developed test, vaccines, and other medical countermeasures. Given we already had these tools and the hard-earned lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no excuse for the slow response by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). Congress must do its job and conduct proper oversight. I urge Chairman Pallone to immediately hold hearings to examine the current outbreak and the administration’s response.” 

Letter