Monkeypox: Biden administration declares outbreak a public health emergency

The announcement came during a briefing with the Department of Health and Human Services.

The administration has been criticized at times for its handling of the outbreak, with some calling on the government to declare a national emergency without delay.

Since the first case of monkeypox was identified in the US in mid-May, more than 6,600 probable or confirmed cases have been detected in the United States. Cases have been identified in every state except Montana and Wyoming.

The declaration follows the World Health Organization’s announcement last month that monkeypox is a public health emergency of international concern. The WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease” and “potentially requires a coordinated international response.” “.

Some cities and states, including New York City, San Francisco, California, Illinois and New York, have already declared monkeypox an emergency, freeing up funds and resources for their responses to the outbreak.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden named Robert Fenton as the White House national monkeypox response coordinator. Fenton, a regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency that oversees Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, will coordinate the federal government’s response to the outbreak. Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, serves as deputy coordinator.

Some public health experts have harshly criticized the Biden administration for not acting faster to address the crisis.

One of the criticisms of the administration’s response, as CNN reported early Thursday, was that HHS waited more than three weeks after the first confirmed case of monkeypox in the US to order that bulk stocks of monkeypox vaccine, which the government owns and stores in Denmark, will be bottled and shipped to the US for distribution. The delay was due in part to concerns that once those vaccines were removed from bulk storage, they would lose years of shelf life.

Monkeypox can infect anyone, but most cases in the US outbreak have been among men who have sex with men, including gay and bisexual men and people who identify as transgender. Close contact with an infected person is required for the spread of the monkeypox virus, experts say.

The CDC initially announced that monkeypox vaccines would be released from the Strategic National Stockpile and offered to “high-risk” contacts of monkeypox patients, as well as health care workers who treat them. . Since then, federal health officials have expanded vaccination efforts to focus on the broader community of men who have sex with men, the demographic group that makes up the majority of monkeypox cases in the US.

In addition to providing vaccines, the CDC has said since June that it has made a concerted effort to provide broad education and outreach to the LGBTQ community.

Possible change in the way the vaccine is given

Health officials are considering changing the way monkeypox vaccine doses are administered because the country is “at a critical tipping point” with the spread of the virus, the commissioner told reporters Thursday. of the US Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert Califf.

“Over the past few days, it has become clear to all of us that given the continued spread of the virus, we are at a critical tipping point, dictating the need for additional solutions to address the increase in infection rates,” Califf said. “The goal has always been to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

The commissioner said officials are considering allowing health care providers to be able to use a shared-dose method in which one vial of the Jynneos vaccine, previously used as one dose, will be used to administer up to five separate doses.

This approach would change the way Jynneos is administered, Califf said. Instead of the vaccine being given into the layer of fat under the skin, it will be given under the layer of skin.

“Intradermal administration has some advantages, including a better immune response to the vaccine,” Califf said. “It is important to note that the overall safety and efficacy profile will not be sacrificed by this approach. Please note that we have been exploring all scientifically feasible options and believe this could be a promising approach.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.

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