The Biden administration is declaring a public health emergency for theoutbreak in the United States, which now has more virus infections than any other country in the world. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the decision at a briefing with top public health officials Thursday.
“This public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly to affected communities. And it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track and target this outbreak,” Robert Fenton said in a statement. briefing the newly appointed White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator.
Over the past decade, nationwide emergency declarations like this have previously been made just because of the COVID-19 pandemic, theand the in 2017.
As with COVID-19, the official said Becerra’s decision to declare an emergency could unlock a wide range of flexibilities in funding and regulations to respond to the spread of monkeypox.
The declaration of a public health emergency could pave the way for the CDC to deploy more staff to respond to the outbreak, officials said, as well as forcing hospitals to share more data to track monkeypox patients. It could also help clear the way for resources to ramp up vaccines.
Since last week, the administration says it has distributed another 266,000 doses of Jynneos.to states and territories that have ordered doses. Another 150,000 doses initially scheduled for delivery from vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic in October have been moved to September.
Federal health officials also told reporters they were weighing a separate measure that would allow the Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations that could easedue to the monkeypox outbreak.
One such authorization, first introduced by a National Institutes of Health official earlier this week at a meeting with the World Health Organization, could allow vaccinators to increase their supply fivefold by injecting smaller “intradermal” doses into the skin, instead of the “subcutaneous”. method currently approved for Jynneos.
“We feel very good about the intradermal approach and probably within the next few days, in a short period of time, we will make a final decision on it,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf.
The federal health authorities also have on hand millions of expired doses of Jynneos stored years ago, which are now being tested by Bavarian Nordic. If found to be feasible, which a spokesperson acknowledged to CBS News earlier this month was “highly unlikely,” the doses could be approved under an emergency use authorization for use.
Officials have said for weeks that they were considering the move as the number of cases has risen and demand for vaccines has far outstripped supply across the country.
The move comes as a growing number of jurisdictions, including severaljust like him all have considered the outbreak an emergency.
This week, President Biden also turned to officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the CDC tofrom the White House.
On Wednesday, the CDC said it had counted at least 6,617 infections nationwide. All but two states, Montana and Wyoming, reported detecting at least one infection.
“We expect cases to continue to rise, as we’ve had more access to testing, people had more access to testing, before they go down again,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.
It is still believed that most infections are spread through intimate contact between men who have sex with men. Although no deaths have been reported, patients often endurerashes and lesions that can last for weeks.
The CDC currently estimates that between 1.6 and 1.7 million Americans are in the groups currently prioritized for the vaccine: people living with HIV, who are men who have sex with men, and others who are at high risk. of contracting HIV.
Doctors have also responded to a handful of infections in other groups that are at higher risk of severe illness, such asY .
Beyond freeing up additional levers in the federal bureaucracy to respond to the outbreak, officials said they hoped the statement would raise awareness of the growing outbreak.
“This is a very clear statement of the value of life for people who are part of the LGBTQ community,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, White House deputy monkeypox response coordinator.
Only about 10% of the nation’s monkeypox testing capacity is being used right now, which equates to about 8,000 swabs of monkeypox cases per week. Officials say they expect the number of people with suspected monkeypox symptoms seeking diagnoses, as well as doctors traveling to test for the disease, to increase in the wake of the declaration.
“I think in addition to moving forward and accelerating some of the work that we’re doing, I think it also represents an important commitment from the administration to the community,” Daskalakis said.