US Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) joined his Senate colleagues in urging the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to work to address racial disparities in the ongoing response to the Monkeypox virus.
“Similar to the COVID-19 outbreak, the US monkeypox outbreak is disproportionately affecting Black and Latino Americans,” wrote the senators in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, limited data/reporting on cases, hospitalizations, deaths and tests disaggregated by race or ethnicity made it difficult to assess its implications across communities.
“Over time, federal, state and local data showed that the majority of COVID-19 cases and fatalities affected people of color, with most illnesses and deaths occurring in regions with higher percentages of Black and Latino populations.”
“The devastating racial and ethnic disparities during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the underlying social, economic and health inequality that has long existed within our health care system due to racial and discriminatory systemic and structural barriers, and the disparities began to narrow with targeted education, outreach and resource distribution,” continued the senators.
The senators highlighted that, similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, racial inequity in health care is an obvious trend in the circulation of the Monkeypox virus. This discrepancy in public health has been a serious cause for concern for health care workers as white men have been receiving a disproportionate amount of vaccinations while making up a smaller percentage of being at risk for Monkeypox.
“Vaccine access must be equitable, even in the face of high demand,” urged the senators. “Any federal targeted response and aid must not inadvertently stigmatize the ongoing public health crisis, but there should be intentional outreach to get resources to impacted communities. The implementation of a rapid and efficient vaccination program is essential to containing and eradicating MPV in communities across the United States. Collecting quality data is crucial to direct our vaccination and testing in the proper directions.”
The letter was cosigned by senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dr. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
Full text of the letter can be found at https://www.booker.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/letter_on_monkeypox_racial_disparities.pdf.