The Centers for Disease Control now tracks the confirmed number of monkeypox cases across the country. As of August 3rd, the agency reports about 6,600 cases across the country. The first confirmed monkeypox infection in the US was reported on May 19th. Monkeypox cases have followed a similar trajectory across Europe.
As cases increased, several states declared monkeypox a public health emergency. Most recently, the Biden Administration issued a public health emergency and enlisted the help of public health agencies to address recent outbreaks.
That might be the most troubling news of all.
Over the past two years, numerous reports, scholarly articles, and books have illustrated how disastrous public health guidelines and mandates worsened the COVID-19 public health emergency. In his eye-opening book A Plague Upon Our House, Hoover Institute Health Policy Fellow Scott Atlas called the government’s response to the pandemic, “likely the most egregious failure in the history of modern health policy.”
Alarmingly, government efforts to address monkeypox already resemble some of its biggest failures in combatting COVID.
As the first monkeypox cases emerged in the US, state-managed pharmacies failed to deliver enough testing for a concerned public. Testing shortages prompted the federal government to allow commercial laboratories to develop and offer monkeypox testing. Consequently, testing capacity rapidly increased from 8,000 per day to about 80,000 per day.
Failure to allow private laboratories to develop and test for COVID-19 also plagued the US early in the pandemic.
Fortunately, monkeypox vaccines and treatment methods already exist. Although developed to prevent smallpox infections, the Jynneos vaccine is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent monkeypox infections. Suppose a patient is already infected with monkeypox. In that case, the drug tecovirimat, which was also developed to combat smallpox, is available through compassionate use—where it seems to be providing effective treatment.
But getting access has been extremely difficult. Both vaccines and treatments for monkeypox are primarily stored in the federal government’s strategic stockpile—an arsenal of goods held in the event of biological warfare. But releasing and distributing these goods has become painfully sluggish, severely limiting patient access.
A similar snafu unfolded when COVID-19 vaccines and treatments became available. The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 featured numerous instances of vaccines needlessly waiting to be shipped, or shipped to places where they expired unused. Similarly, when remdesivir became the first FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19, the federal government quickly bought up nearly all of the world’s supply. It then failed to distribute it to hospitals that needed it.
Monkeypox is not COVID-19. But it is still a severe disease, the impact of which on public health is made considerably worse by not having access to vaccinations and treatments. If these viruses have one thing in common, it is that governmental failures have made them more destructive than necessary.