The United States has declared monkeypox a public health emergency, a move that many are hoping could help free up additional resources and funding to curb the ongoing outbreak.
The announcement came from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, who stated that the decision should speed up the distribution of vaccines, treatments, and federal resources to help stop the virus’ spread, similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Declared whenever a disease or disorder leads to significant outbreaks (among others), the move lasts for the duration of the emergency or 90 days. But it can be extended.
This decision comes less than a fortnight after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued its highest emergency alert following a sudden surge in confirmed cases and as the U.S. reached 6,600 cases.
New York, California, and Illinois – the three states with the highest caseloads – have also declared states of emergency.
“Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. We are taking our response to the next level by declaring a public health emergency. With today’s declaration we can further strengthen and accelerate our response further,” said secretary Becerra.
Declaring the outbreak an emergency would provide justification for jurisdictions to sign data use agreements that would yield vaccine-related information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, 51 jurisdictions have signed the agreement.
According to CNBC, President Joe Biden named a team of disaster management and health officials earlier this week to help lead the U.S. response to the monkeypox outbreak. This includes Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Robert Fenton as the head of U.S. efforts, and CDC’s division of HIV prevention director Demetre Daskalakis as the U.S. deputy monkeypox response coordinator. Daskalakis is an expert on health issues affecting the LGBTQ community, per the White House.
Together, Fenton and Daskalakis will work with state and local authorities to ensure everyone has access to tests, vaccines, and antiviral treatments. They will also help educate the public on the virus, how it spreads, and what symptoms to watch out for.
As of the announcement, HHS has shipped more than 602,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine to states and jurisdictions. HHS has also allocated 1.1 million doses to states and jurisdictions. The department has also accelerated the delivery of an additional 150,000 doses to arrive in the country by next month.