LGBTQ+ and AIDS advocates plan to rally outside of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office in Manhattan on Sunday, August 14, following weeks of delays in the rollout of the monkeypox vaccine and treatment.
They are demanding that lawmakers expedite distribution of the over 2 million vaccine doses that healthcare officials estimate are needed to fight the monkeypox outbreak. The 16 million raw vaccine doses ordered by the Biden administration have been waiting for months to be filled into vials and shipped to the U.S.
“The Biden administration is telling us we need to wait until 2023 to get the vaccines we needed last month,” said Victor Li of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power). “The U.S. should be contracting with multiple manufacturers to deploy the 16 million doses worth of vaccine material we already own instead of waiting on a single manufacturer, Bavarian Nordic, to slowly ramp up production on their own.”
Advocates are also upset about the red tape surrounding access to the treatment for monkeypox known as tecovirimat or Tpoxx. Currently, doctors have to fill out a 27 page application to prescribe the drug which heals skin lesions and reduces pain within 24 hours.
“The symptoms were very painful and lasted for days,” says Bryan Fotino who developed symptoms of monkeypox two weeks ago. “Knowing that there is an F.D.A-approved drug, TPOXX, that I could have taken to relieve the symptoms but was denied access to is very frustrating.”
Community members want the same consideration shown for people with monkeypox as was shown to people with COVID-19 in 2020. Currently, people with monkeypox should isolate for two to four weeks through the duration of the illness. But without an economic safety net as existed during the early months of COVID-19, infectious people may be forced to return to work before their symptoms and potential for transmission have subsided.
“People with monkeypox need a weekly stipend to ensure that they don’t have to choose between not paying rent and exposing others to the disease,” said Brandon Cuicchi of ACT UP.
On Sunday, activists will hold a press conference and rally outside Chuck Schumer’s office to demand that lawmakers answer their calls for help. Speakers will include people who have recovered from monkeypox. Protesters will wear red tape over their mouths while others wrap themselves in tape to symbolize the difficulty people are having to access monkeypox vaccines and treatment.
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