The Biden administration estimates that the United States may need nearly $7 billion for monkeypox


The Biden administration privately estimated to Congress this month that it may need nearly $7 billion to tackle a monkeypox outbreak in the country that matches the “scope and urgency of the current situation.”

The funding estimates, detailed in a memo to President Biden and obtained by The Washington Post, reflect early conversations between Congressional Democrats and White House officials in pursuit of a spending package that could boost the availability of monkeypox tests and a vaccine. Dosages and treatments.

The amount was not a sign of a formal request for assistance to Congress. Instead, it was one of a series of options that reflected different amounts that could fund different levels of federal easing efforts. According to the memo, White House aides recently submitted the ideas at the request of Democratic leaders on the Senate Health Committee. A Democratic aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private conversations, confirmed the funding details to the newspaper.

The Biden administration has also called for up to $31.4 billion in new money to fight the coronavirus pandemic, as it seeks to ensure the government has the resources to buy more treatments, tests and vaccines this year.

The White House has repeatedly urged Congress to approve another tranche of aid targeting COVID-19. But Republicans raised numerous fiscal objections to the additional federal spending, leading to a stalemate that forced the Biden administration to legalize the remaining funds. New discussions about monkeypox aid may face similar political hurdles, because some Republican lawmakers have previously said they are only willing to repurchase existing money, not authorize new dollars.

Private discussions unfolded as public health experts warned that monkeypox, which can spread by skin-to-skin contact and cause fever, lesions and severe pain, is at risk of becoming permanently entrenched in the United States. Federal officials have identified about 3,500 cases, overwhelmingly among gay and bisexual men, and have warned that the virus is likely to spread to a larger population.

The World Health Organization on Saturday declared the global outbreak of monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern, its highest level of warning, and Biden officials are considering a similar declaration, although the current outbreak has not yet been linked to any deaths in the United States.

After this story was published, an administration official confirmed current White House discussions with Congress about monkeypox funding.

“As part of our routine conversations with Congress about diverse resource needs, the administration this weekend responded to a request from Hill staff for additional information about the administration’s public health response efforts, including our response to the monkeypox outbreak and additional resources needed to continue it,” the official wrote. who asked not to be named in an email.

According to the memo obtained by The Post, officials estimate that $6.9 billion in new funding for the monkeypox response will allow the Department of Health and Human Services to support “comprehensive domestic vaccine manufacturing capacity and technology transfer” in the United States. The only FDA-approved vaccine specifically for monkeypox, Jynneos, is being produced in Denmark, causing major complications in the US response – for example, Hundreds of thousands of doses of Jynneos have been stranded overseas for weeks, awaiting US inspections and transportation.

With that much funding, officials also estimate they will be able to secure 19 million new doses of monkeypox vaccine and replenish about 4 million doses for paused smallpox preparedness efforts, as well as buy more antiviral treatments, expand testing, improve vaccine distribution, and provide Coverage of services for uninsured and underinsured Americans, among other goals.

Health officials have also estimated the effects of the second “medium” option, which is seeking $2.2 billion in monkeypox funding to buy some vaccine doses and treatments targeting the gay and bisexual community, where the disease is currently most common. concentrated. But that amount may provide an effective response only if the outbreak continues to be contained and does not spread to a larger population, “which is not guaranteed,” the note warns.

Officials also estimated a simple $500 million backup option that would allow some vaccine doses to be purchased and “simple” operations to continue.

Health officials said they are funding the current monkeypox response by drawing on existing funds and a response fund managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Biden administration has distributed 330,000 vaccines and contracted a total of 6.9 million Gyno doses by mid-2023, in addition to other investments in tests and treatments.

The discussions come as Democrats on Capitol Hill sound mounting alarms about the need for the federal government to act quickly and more aggressively. Party lawmakers have launched a series of messages over the past week that have shown some unease with the situation, and in some cases have argued that the US government has not done enough to provide tests, treatments and vaccines to those who need them most.

In one letter to the Biden administration, sent Monday, more than 100 House Democrats led by Representatives Jerrold Nadler (DNY) and David N. Cicilline (DRI) to ‘additional funding’ that could support health clinics tasked with responding to monkeypox. Lawmakers said a lack of financial resources has put local business at risk to conduct contact tracing and provide other essential services, adding to the burden on doctors and aides already overburdened by the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we hope is that the Covid experience will benefit the response to this outbreak,” Cecline said in an interview on Tuesday.

Separately, 22 other Democrats led by Senators Jeff Merkley (D) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) expressed growing “concern” about the number of recent cases and called on the Biden administration to increase access to vaccines. Lawmakers said the lack of vaccinations has harmed “at-risk” populations, particularly the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, for whom health care could already be “unavailable or denied”.

“In light of this great demand and the communities affected by the outbreak in the United States thus far, we urge you to act with urgency to take action to respond to this public health concern and to ensure appropriate dosing and equitable distribution of a vaccine in the United States,” the Democrats wrote in their letter.

Markey also called on the CDC on Tuesday to “reduce the barriers” to accessing a key treatment, known as tecovirimat, which has been difficult to obtain for monkeypox patients. In doing so, Markey asked HHS and CDC officials if they needed “additional funding” to ensure it was available.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have continued to pressure the White House over its emerging response to monkeypox and the ongoing response to the coronavirus. Senator Richard Burr (RN.) sent in on how to respond to the current outbreak. Burr has also spent months warning the White House that he does not plan to support more coronavirus funding until he is sure trillions of dollars in previous funding are well spent.

Broadly, Democratic Republicans have demanded that previous stimulus dollars be reallocated to cover the costs of any new public health spending. Without the support of the Republican Party, Democrats cannot deliver any aid package in the narrowly divided Senate.

The Biden administration has repeatedly called for more coronavirus funding, warning that it has increasingly been forced to divert money from other needed initiatives, such as the move last month to take $10 billion from testing and other programs to buy more vaccines. The White House on Tuesday hosted experts who made the case for a “next generation” of coronavirus vaccines that could last longer and provide more protection against the virus, the administration’s latest effort to highlight the need for more investment.

“We must continue to innovate, be creative, and advance great ideas at work. We must continue to fund these ideas with congressional support,” said Alondra Nelson, acting director of the White House Office of Science.

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