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Monkeypox: Is the Biden Administration Learning from COVID-19 Mistakes?

Health & Gender Policy Brief #139 | By: Geoffrey Small | August 8, 2022

Header photo taken from: Mario Tama / Getty Images

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Photo taken from: The U.N. Report Preventing the Next Pandemic

Policy Summary

A 2020 United Nations report outlined multiple factors contributing to the likelihood that the world will experience another pandemic. Global issues such as unsustainable agriculture, population growth, and climate change will have a significant impact on the severity and frequency of the next zoonotic diseases like monkeypox and COVID-19. The report recommended better overall international coordination. 

This includes investing in the One Health perspective, where the public health response is coordinated across multiple disciplines, organizations, and sovereigns. Strengthening relationships with the WHO (World Health Organization) and improving international emergency response is necessary. Also, One Health promotes protections of marginalized groups from the unmitigated spread of disease. 

On July 23rd, the WHO Director General declared that the global monkeypox outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the Trump Administration’s lack of cooperation during the initial outbreak. The question remains whether or not the Biden Administration has learned from past mistakes when responding to monkeypox.

Policy Analysis

Photo taken from: The U.N. Report Preventing the Next Pandemic

The U.N. One Health approach also emphasizes protections and support for marginalized groups. This strategy can decrease the likelihood of an unmitigated spread of disease in certain communities with accessibility issues. 

Marginalized groups are also more likely to be stigmatized and become targets of hate during an outbreak. It is well known that Asian minorities have become victims of discrimination and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The LGBTQ community is now at risk with the spread of monkeypox. Equality California and three other major LGBTQ organizations recently sent a letter to the Director of the CDC requesting expanded testing and more vaccines. 

The letter also advocates for a change in the name. It states the name monkeypox is discriminatory and misleading, as the U.S. version has no clear link to the original West African strain. 

 

The letter cites CDC and WHO’s reported concerns that the majority of confirmed transmissions are in transgender, gay, and bisexual communities. 

Despite the delay, the Biden Administration may have offered a reprieve by declaring a nation-wide public health emergency, which can expand access to vaccines and testing that the LGBTQ community needs. However, the consequences of the delay remain uncertain.

Organizations like Equality California and GLAAD are spreading awareness about monkeypox in the LGBTQ community. Biden is taking steps to embrace The U.N. One Health perspective more than the Trump administration. 

However, Biden’s delay in declaring a public health emergency lacked international coordination. Donating to these organizations can help encourage The U.S. to be more proactive in protecting the LGBTQ community from unchecked spread of monkeypox and discrimination.

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