Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., urged President Joe Biden in a letter signed by several other House Democrats to invoked the Defense Production Act to increase domestic production of monkeypox vaccine. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 17 (UPI) -- New York House Democrats urged President Joe Biden on Wednesday to invoke the Defense Production Act to hasten the manufacture of monkeypox vaccines amid a shortage of doses nationwide.
Reps. Jerry Nadler and Ritchie Torres said in the letter dated Tuesday that Biden must invoke the frequently used Korea War-era act to ramp up domestic production of the vaccine in order to meet the growing demand. Invoking the act would also aid federal, state and local authorities in communicating their needs to stymy the virus' spread, they said.
"It is critical that the federal government act with urgency to ensure that every American who wants or needs a monkeypox vaccine has access to one before the disease spreads out of control," the pair wrote in the letter that was signed by nine other House representatives.
The letter was sent as the Biden administration has been dealing with mounting criticism over its handling of the outbreak, which began in mid-May with the first case diagnosed in Massachusetts. Since then, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed more than 13,500 infections of the disease, mostly in men who have sex with men.
The administration has taken several measures to increase the availability of vaccines, including ordering 7 million doses, which are to be delivered in batches until mid-next year, as well as declaring the outbreak a public health emergency on Aug. 4.
Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also authorized an alternative dosing regimen of the monkeypox vaccine that would increase the number of doses from 400,000 in the Strategic National Stockpile to upward of 2 million.
Nadler and Torres said in their letter that they appreciate the efforts the administration has taken but that "it is clear that vaccine demand is quickly outpacing supply through the country."
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only a little more than 1 million doses of the vaccine have been allocated nationwide with some 634,000 delivered as of Friday.
New York State has received nearly 28,300 doses while New York City has received a handful over 77,800, it said.
This represents less than a third of the 3.5 million doses that some experts say are required, according to Johns Hopkins University.
"Now is the time to call on extraordinary measures to ensure our vaccine supply can meet the challenges of this moment," the Democratic pair wrote.
The Defense Production Act is frequently used by various federal departments. According to a report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense estimates that it invokes the act's power some 300,000 times a year. In 2019, the Department of Human Services used it fewer than 400 times alone.
Torres in a statement Wednesday said that they must learn from the lessons taught by the COVID-19 pandemic and invoke the act before the monkeypox outbreak develops into a pandemic.
"The Defense Production Act is needed now to help stop this outbreak from becoming disastrous," he said.