Wiener to chair new Senate committee on monkeypox

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday August 3, 2022
Share this Post:
State Senator Scott Wiener. Photo: Courtesy Sen. Wiener's office
State Senator Scott Wiener. Photo: Courtesy Sen. Wiener's office

With monkeypox cases rising in California, state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has been tapped to chair a new senate committee on the virus.

Wiener, a gay man, was appointed August 3 to chair the Senate Select Committee on Monkeypox by lesbian Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

Also appointed as members of the committee are out Senators Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) and John Laird (D-Santa Cruz); and Senators Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), and Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).

The Select Committee on Monkeypox will hold an oversight hearing Tuesday, August 9, at 1:30 p.m. in Sacramento, with state and local health officials and experts.

"Monkeypox is a public health emergency, and we need to do everything we can to contain the outbreak," Wiener stated in a news release. "Monkeypox is a painful and serious infection, and no one should have to endure it. We need to ensure California's response, at both the state and local level, is effective and adequately funded. Our community is depending on us to deliver."

Monkeypox, while rarely deadly, is a serious infection that can cause intense pain, scarring, and in some cases hospitalization, the release stated. This spring, monkeypox spread beyond central and west Africa to other parts of the world, including the United States.

Wiener has been outspoken in advocating for a stronger response to the outbreak. He called for both San Francisco and California to declare respective states of emergency, which each entity did. And he has criticized the slow national public health response.

"We have a safe and effective vaccine for monkeypox — the Jynneos vaccine — yet the world did not flood impacted areas of Africa with the vaccine. Indeed, the United States chose to order only a small number of vaccine doses for its national vaccine stockpile and allowed tens of millions of doses to expire without replacing them," he noted.

On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the shortage of vaccines to combat the fast-growing monkeypox outbreak was caused in part because the Department of Health and Human Services failed early on to ask that bulk stocks of the vaccine it already owned be bottled for distribution, according to multiple administration officials familiar with the matter. The paper reported that the U.S. supply of the vaccine likely will be limited for months.

Wiener stated that gay and bisexual men and others at risk desperately want the vaccine in order to protect themselves and those around them. "Yet, instead of quickly mobilizing into a mass vaccination campaign with this existing safe and effective vaccine, many of our counties lack the supply to vaccinate everyone seeking the vaccine," he stated. "In San Francisco, for example, people have been waiting in lines for as long as nine hours in the hope of getting a scarce vaccine. The long wait times create further barriers for low-income, marginalized communities to access the vaccine."

In addition, Wiener noted that access to testing is very limited. Across the state, people with symptoms haven't been able to access testing, or can't get test results for a week or longer. And far too many health providers know little to nothing about the virus, meaning that people are bounced around from provider to provider or simply cannot access care at all, his release stated.

Wiener stated that with the Select Committee on Monkeypox, the Senate will have the opportunity to identify what can be done in the short and medium terms to improve California's response to the ongoing outbreak. Through this committee, the Senate will convene experts from different professional and community backgrounds to discuss what can be done long-term to better respond to outbreaks of contagious viruses.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.