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Opinion: Fight Against Monkeypox Requires Congress to Learn from COVID-19 and Act Fast on Funding


Fresh on the heels of the greatest public health crisis in a century, the U.S. is facing another major public health emergency with the outbreak of monkeypox virus (MPV). America’s mayors are ready to spring into action to respond to the situation, just as we did with COVID-19, by working with the federal government to educate residents on preventing infection, help administer testing and distribute vaccines locally. What we’re missing – and what we need – is a well-funded and coordinated federal response to help us be effective in the role we play.  

As with COVID-19, California and New York lead the nation in confirmed MPV cases.  In early August, both of our communities declared local public health emergencies to accelerate education, vaccination, testing and treatment of as many people in at-risk populations as possible in response to this outbreak. But today, due to limited supply, restricted vaccination eligibility, and narrow symptom parameters for testing, we haven’t been able to reach our full potential needed to stop this virus.  

We can and must do better.  

We need to focus on serving the highest-risk communities. In San Diego, 92 percent of our cases have been those who have identified as LGBTQ+. While one of us is the first openly gay mayor of the city of San Diego and chairman of the U.S Conference of Mayors LGBTQ Alliance, we both believe it is critically important to have the resources to quickly and effectively educate and communicate with our most-impacted communities. In both cities we serve, we’ve had successful vaccination efforts that delivered tens of thousands to sexually active gay and bisexual men. 

To stop MPV’s spread, we need a fully functioning partnership among federal, state, and local governments, along with sustained funding to help support those efforts. As Congress returns from August recess and begins debate on the budget that will result in a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR), they should not miss this opportunity to provide emergency funding to tackle MPV. To wait until we have a full-year budget agreement – which is months away – risks making our work more difficult, more expensive – and far more dangerous. 

That is why Congress needs to come together in a bipartisan fashion and include President Joe Biden’s $47.1 billion emergency supplemental funding request, $4.5 billion of which would go directly to combat the MPV outbreak, in the upcoming CR. This $4.5 billion request will help mitigate the MPV outbreak by replenishing the depleted vaccine stockpile, increase access to vaccinations, testing, treatment, and operational support for our communities, as well as provide $600 million to help combat the spread of monkeypox globally. All these efforts will help ensure that our communities have the tools necessary to make progress against this threat. 

To be clear, we are in a far better position with MPV than we were with COVID-19. We have effective treatment, vaccines, and a more thorough understanding of the virus and how it spreads. There is no reason we should be on our heels and scrambling for a program to contain this outbreak. We know what we need to do immediately: expedite the production and dissemination of vaccines and treatments, expand testing operations, and broadcast effective education campaigns. By providing emergency funding to fight this public health threat, we will have the resources committed to ensure this outbreak doesn’t become a full-fledged pandemic. 

America must act now to prevent MPV from becoming a full-scale crisis. Congress needs to come together at this crucial moment to pass this emergency funding to help keep our communities healthy and strong. America’s mayors stand ready to deliver again with the federal government’s help.