De Blasio blasts city, Biden administration for lackluster Monkeypox response

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Former Mayor Bill de Blasio in City Hall Park, calling on the city and federal governments for a more robust Monkeypox response. Monday, July 11, 2022.
Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

Returning to his old stomping grounds at City Hall – albeit outside the halls of power – ex-Mayor and 10th Congressional District candidate Bill de Blasio Monday called on both the city and federal governments to do more to curb the growing Monkeypox outbreak spreading across the city.

“There really is no time to waste in a crisis like this, and there is so much that federal and city officials can do right now to get control of this crisis,” de Blasio told reporters in City Hall Park. “In the face of a public health crisis, all levels of government need to move quickly and in the same direction towards safety.”

The first cases of Monkeypox in the city were reported in late May and as of Monday the city has over 223 positive cases of the virus, according to Mayor Eric Adams’ office. Positive cases have mainly been detected among the LGBTQ plus community, but anyone can contract and spread Monkeypox. The infection causes blister-like rashes, fever and other symptoms, but doctors think it’s less transmissible than COVID-19 and there are no known Monkeypox deaths in the U.S.

According to published reports, the city has conducted a botched rollout of the Monkeypox vaccine so far, with many lining up to get the shot having their appointments canceled at the last minute due to a lack of available doses. Meanwhile, 17 million Monkeypox vaccine doses are reportedly stuck in a warehouse in Denmark because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) failed to do a timely inspection of the facility. And the doses cannot be shipped until an inspection is completed.

During the news conference, De Blasio laid out several recommendations for what both levels of government can do to combat the virus’ growing threat. First, he called on both entities to make a one-dose recommendation – increasing the space between first and second doses, so more people can receive the first dose – for individuals who have a high risk of infection.

The former mayor said he’s spoken to his successor about switching to a one-dose recommendation strategy, something Adams seemed open to.

“I had a very good conversation with the mayor and he said he agrees that it is important to move to a one dose strategy,” de Blasio said. “And I think it’s really crucial for the city to implement that immediately. We all know that if you wait on state and federal approvals, you may be waiting for a very long time. This crisis is here and now. So, I think we learned enough times during COVID, take action now, ask permission later, because people are suffering.”

In a letter to the White House Monday, shared with PoliticsNY, the mayor urged Biden to adopt a one-dose vaccine schedule and to quickly supply the city with additional vaccine doses to the 7,000 already received and the 14,500 expected to come later this week. 

Issuing this recommendation would allow the federal government to invoke the Defense Production Act – a law President Joe Biden can invoke to incentivize businesses to produce the materials needed during a national security crisis like a pandemic, de Blasio said. When he was mayor through the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, de Blasio said he called on ex-Priesdent Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to meet demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and bolster the development of a vaccine, a power Trump never fully used.

Additionally, de Blasio said, Biden hasn’t been much better than Trump at fully utilizing the Defense Production Act. He criticized Biden for not invoking the act soon enough during the recent baby formula shortage and called on him to use it to full effect against Monkeypox.

“I don’t know why either a Republican or Democratic administration took so long, but I do know it’s the tool we need now,” de Blasio said. “There’s supply chain problems all over the world. The disruption of markets. We’re in a time of multiple crises, the answer is to mobilize the full might of this country economically and to use our private sector, but at the direction of the federal government, to produce the things we need. Whether it be vaccines. Whether it be PPE. Whether it be baby formula. The pattern is exactly the same. The opportunity keeps being missed.”

De Blasio also called on the FDA to “free up” the millions of vaccine doses sitting in a Danish warehouse by conducting the needed inspections and accepting the European Union’s approval process.

“The FDA does not move with urgency and they don’t seem to recognize when a crisis is already upon us,” de Blasio said. “We know there are vaccines available in Europe that have been approved by the European Union. We need the FDA to accept the European Union’s approval process to speed the shipment of vaccine doses to New York City, to the United States, immediately. We cannot let this crisis spread when vaccines are actually available a short flight away.”

The former mayor also recommended opening up appointments for a second dose once more vaccines are procured and called on the New York State Public Health Corps to do more outreach and education about the virus among the LGBTQ plus community.

“A lot of people are not getting good information here. It’s time to mobilize,” de Blasio said. “We have an extraordinary public health apparatus and we built onto it with the Test & Trace Corps. That should be put out and fueled immediately to have an impact.”