WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress should authorize the White House’s nearly $27 billion funding request to support the COVID-19 and Monkeypox virus (MPXV) response, more than 50 groups said in a letter to appropriations committee heads after they dropped the White House’s requested funding from the continuing resolution late Monday night.
The letter, organized by Oxfam America and Public Citizen, was signed by Families USA, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Partners In Health, and nearly 50 other groups as Congress seeks to finalize the FY 23 budget.
“Without additional funding, vaccination, treatment and testing programs will falter, as will American research and development efforts crucial to identifying tools to mitigate the effects of current and future pandemics,” notes the letter. “We urge you not to leave Americans and people all over the world vulnerable to continued risks of more death, disease and economic disruption from these public health emergencies.”
The letter also noted similar trajectories of unequal access to medical tools in both the COVID-19 pandemic and the MPXV response. Globally, people in lower-income countries are 1.3 times more likely to die from the pandemic than people in wealthy countries. Yet Congress has failed to approve any additional funding for the global response to COVID-19 in the past six months.
Of the 2.5 billion people globally who still have not received any COVID-19 vaccines, a disproportionate number live in lower-income countries. In the U.S., Black and Latino men are being disproportionately impacted by MPXV – representing more than two-thirds of U.S. cases – but less than one-third of first Jynneos vaccine doses administered. Brazil, which has had close to 10% of global MPXV cases, has not received any vaccines or treatments for the disease.
Domestically, the lack of supplemental funding has resulted in the end of free COVID-19 tests as well as an end to reimbursement to providers for COVID-19 care including vaccine administration for uninsured Americans, who are disproportionately people of color. “Additional funding can help ensure everyone in America is able to access the medical tools they need today and can help deliver the improved medical tools we need to better address COVID-19 in the future,” notes the letter.
Likewise, fulfilling the MPXV funding request will help ensure an adequate supply of Jynneos “and support Administration efforts to promote vaccine equity and conduct the research needed to understand vaccine effectiveness, optimal use of treatments and more,” notes the letter. “But an ongoing funding drought will stall research and force tradeoffs between responding to urgent health needs and ensuring we are taking the steps needed now to better prepare for future pandemic threats.”