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Senator Collins Questions Top Health Officials on Monkeypox Outbreak

Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ Q&A. 


Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, participated in a hearing titled, “Stopping the Spread of Monkeypox: Examining the Federal Response.” This was the Committee’s first hearing to examine the federal government’s response to the monkeypox outbreak.


Witnesses included Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dawn O'Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


Senator Collins began by asking Ms. O’Connell whether the Administration had ever requested to use leftover COVID money to respond to monkeypox or submitted a reprogramming request to the Senate Appropriations Committee for those purposes.  She responded that HHS has been advised by their legal team that the money that is currently in a contract for COVID distribution could not be used to set up a monkeypox distribution network.


Moving on to the topic of testing, Senator Collins inquired why the Administration gave a $1.3 billion contract to a Chinese company to manufacture tests rather than using that funding to boost domestic manufacturing.  She quoted White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Jha, who lamented that domestic manufacturing of tests is beginning to recede.


“I would suggest that it's the Administration's contracting policies that have weakened our domestic manufacturing of COVID tests,” noted Senator Collins.  “As you and I have discussed before, the majority of the at-home tests the Administration purchase for COVID were manufactured outside of the United States.  For example, the Administration awarded a Chinese company iHealth a $1.3 billion contract. That's roughly four times the size of the contract that was awarded to an American company, Abbott, which has a considerable presence in my state.  So, how is it that the Administration is working with domestic testing manufacturing, when you're at the same time awarding contracts to Chinese companies? That does not help to preserve domestic manufacturing?”


Ms. O’Connell responded that the contract to iHealth was awarded around the time that President Biden announced the delivery of COVID tests by mail, and that the contract was awarded internationally to prevent the disruption of tests being delivered to local pharmacies.


Senator Collins also asked Dr. Fauci whether efforts are being made to expand screenings and ascertain the community spread of monkeypox cases in the broader community.


“The answer is yes, we are doing now sero-surveys in surveillance that go beyond the well-established, high level of infection in certain demographic groups,” Dr. Fauci replied.  “[W]e're actually doing it in collaboration with [the CDC] using some of our cohorts in collaboration with the CDC's capability to do that.”


“Among our health advisory networks that we send to clinicians…we make recommendations just like that, that say, if there is an atypical rash, please consider monkeypox and test for it on your differential diagnosis,” Dr. Walensky added.