(WASHINGTON) — Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday called on the Biden administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to help increase supply and access to monkeypox vaccines, which lag far behind demand as the virus continues to spread nationwide.
“Right now there are enough vaccines in the United States to cover one-third of the community generally currently most at risk,” Gillibrand said during a press conference. The senator’s own state of New York is the hardest hit in the country and has declared a disaster emergency.
Gillibrand’s calls for DPA action come after The Washington Post recently reported that the U.S. won’t be receiving any more doses of the monkeypox vaccine Jynneos until October.
When pressed on specifics of what the DPA could do to increase supply quickly, Gillibrand pointed to prioritizing government orders of monkeypox vaccines ahead of other orders.
“We know exactly which manufacturers already manufacture those vaccines, and so we can enter a contract with them immediately,” she said.
If the White House does invoke the DPA, Gillibrand hopes it will be weeks instead of months for the U.S. to ramp up supply.
“Once you start manufacturing a dose, you have doses coming off the line immediately. So I would think it’s weeks, not months,” she said.
It remains to be seen if the White House will act. Gillibrand said she hasn’t heard back on a letter she sent to the White House earlier Wednesday.
“I haven’t verbally spoken to anybody, but I did send a letter asking for them to use it right away,” she said.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has also pressed the White House for more vaccines for New York, saying during a press conference Wednesday morning that she has asked for New York to leapfrog other states for orders because they have the highest number of cases and are running short.
The Department of Health and Human Services has yet to declare a public health emergency that would free up federal resources to address the outbreak.
President Joe Biden named FEMA’s Robert Fenton as White House national monkeypox response coordinator on Tuesday to address the ongoing outbreak.
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