HHS declares monkeypox a public health emergency in U.S.


White House ramps up efforts to fight outbreak.

Monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency (PHE) in the United States.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the declaration Aug. 4 to “strengthen and accelerate the Biden-Harris administration’s response in recognition of the continued rapid transmission of monkeypox in the U.S. and globally, and to signal the seriousness and urgency with which the administration is responding.”

“Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris Administration,” Becerra said in a news release. “We are taking our response to the next level by declaring a public health emergency.”

The same day, the U.S. case count reach 7,102 confirmed cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 500 cases have been reported in New York, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Texas and California, and just two states, Montana and Wyoming, have had no reported cases. Cities and states were quicker in their declarations than the federal government.

There were 26,864 confirmed cases in 88 countries around the world, with most of those in 81 countries that historically have not reported the disease. The World Health Organization on July 23 declared monkeypox to be a public health emergency of international concern.

The American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians have offered clinician guidance on monkeypox. At least one survey found some American believe it is a sexually transmitted disease. It is not, according to CDC, but can be spread through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact.

Along with the PHE declaration, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working on new strategies to get vaccines to affected communities across the country, including a new dose-sparing approach that could increase up to five-fold the number of doses available, according to HHS.

As of Aug. 4, HHS announced it has shipped more than 602,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine to states and jurisdictions, an increase of 266,000 in the past week. HHS has allocated 1.1 million doses to states and jurisdictions in total and is making more doses available as jurisdictions use their current supply. HHS has accelerated delivery of 150,000 additional doses to arrive in the U.S. next month instead of November.

So far, 51 jurisdictions have signed data use agreements to provide CDC with information related to vaccine administration. Declaring an emergency may provide the justification the remaining jurisdictions need to sign their agreements. The PHE provides authorities to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to collect testing and hospitalization data.

The developments came two days after the White House announced appointments of Robert Fenton, a regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator and Demetre Daskalakis, MD, MPH, director of HIV prevention for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.

“President Biden has called on us to explore every option on the table to combat the monkeypox outbreak and protect communities at risk,” Fenton said in the HHS announcement. “We are applying lessons learned from the battles we’ve fought – from COVID response to wildfires to measles, and will tackle this outbreak with the urgency this moment demands.”

This article was published by our sister publication Medical Economics.

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