Monkeypox: Biden administration declares a public health emergency

Washington DC - The Biden administration on Thursday declared the outbreak of monkeypox a national public health emergency in an effort to raise awareness and accelerate efforts to combat it.

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra has signed a national public health emergency on monkeypox and is urging Americans to take the virus seriously.
US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra has signed a national public health emergency on monkeypox and is urging Americans to take the virus seriously.  © REUTERS

"We're prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus," said Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, during a briefing with officials and the media.

The move, which has been under consideration for several weeks, aims to fast-track potential treatments and vaccines, which under the declaration would no longer have to go through the usual federal reviews.

The order also will allow the government more flexibility to administer the current supply of vaccines.

Currently, the government is reportedly undersupplied in its stockpile of Jyennos, the only monkeypox vaccine currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Although officials have said around 1.6 million Americans are at high risk for monkeypox, the US only has enough doses of Jyennos to fully inoculate 550,000 individuals.

Monkeypox declared global health emergency

Health workers sit at a check-in table at a pop-up monkeypox vaccination clinic in West Hollywood, California.
Health workers sit at a check-in table at a pop-up monkeypox vaccination clinic in West Hollywood, California.  © MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global public health emergency on July 23, and some state officials have done the same.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide emergency declaration on Monday, while New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state disaster emergency at the end of July.

Earlier this week, Biden appointed Robert J. Fenton Jr., a longtime official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate the national response to the virus.

Monkeypox is a rare disease similar to smallpox, though symptoms are sometimes milder. It is largely spreading among men who have sex with men as well as transgender and nonbinary people, though health officials warn that anyone can contract the virus through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids, or by touching clothing or bedding used by a person with the virus.

Nationally, more than 6,600 cases have been confirmed since May 18, also predominantly among gay men. Most experts believe those figures greatly underestimate the actual spread of the virus.

Testing capacity, Becerra said has grown to 80,000 tests a week, a figure that should continue to grow.

Cover photo: Collage: MARIO TAMA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP & REUTERS

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