The Biden administration declares 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 during a briefing with senior public health officials on Thursday.
“This public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to deliver vaccines and treatment to affected communities more quickly. And this will allow us to obtain more data from jurisdictions so that we can effectively track and attack this outbreak.” , Robert Fenton, the White House’s new national monkeypox response coordinator, said during the briefing.
Over the past decade, nationwide emergency declarations like this have only been made for the COVID-19 pandemic, theand the in 2017.
As with COVID-19, an official said Becerra’s decision to declare an emergency could unlock a wide range of funding and regulatory flexibilities to respond to the spread of monkeypox.
The public health emergency declaration could pave the way for the CDC to deploy more staff to respond to the outbreak, officials said, as well as requiring hospitals to share more data to track monkeypox patients. It could also help pave the way for resources to scale up vaccinations.
Since last week, the administration claims to have distributed 266,000 additional doses of Jynneosto states and territories that have ordered doses. Another 150,000 doses originally scheduled for delivery by vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic in October have been delayed to September.
Federal health officials also told reporters they were considering a separate ruling that would allow the Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations that could facilitatefor the monkeypox epidemic.
Such authorization, first presented by a National Institutes of Health official earlier this week in a meeting with the World Health Organization, could allow vaccinators to quintuple their supply by injecting smaller doses” intradermal” in the skin, instead of the “subcutaneous” method currently approved for Jynneos.
“We feel very good about the intradermal approach and probably in the next few days, a short period of time, we will make a final decision on this,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf.
Federal health authorities also have on hand millions of expired doses of Jynneos stored years ago, which are currently being tested by Bavarian Nordic. If they prove viable — which a spokesperson admitted to CBS News earlier this month was “highly unlikely” — the doses could be authorized under an emergency use authorization.
Officials have said for weeks they have been considering the decision as the number of cases has risen and demand for vaccines has far outstripped supply nationwide.
This decision comes as a growing number of jurisdictions, including severalas good as all considered the outbreak an emergency.
This week, President Biden also called on officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the CDC toof the White House.
On Wednesday, the CDC said it had tallied at least 6,617 infections across the country. All but two states — Montana and Wyoming — have reported spotting at least one infection.
“We expect cases to continue to rise, as we have had more access to testing, people have had more access to testing, before they come back down,” the CDC director said. , Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The majority of infections are still believed to be spread through close intimate contact between men who have sex with men. Although no deaths have been reported, patients often endurerashes and sores that can last for weeks.
The CDC currently estimates that between 1.6 and 1.7 million Americans are among the current priority groups for the vaccine: people living with HIV, men who have sex with men and other people with high risk of contracting HIV.
Doctors have also responded to a handful of infections in other groups that are at higher risk of serious illness, such asand .
In addition to freeing up additional levers in the federal bureaucracy to respond to the outbreak, officials said they hope the statement will raise awareness of the growing epidemic.
“It’s a very clear statement of the value of the lives of people who are part of the LGBTQ community,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy White House coordinator on the monkeypox response.
Only about 10% of the nation’s monkeypox testing capacity is currently utilized, which equates to about 8,000 swabs of monkeypox cases per week. Officials say they expect the number of people with suspected symptoms of monkeypox seeking a diagnosis, as well as doctors traveling to test for the disease, to increase following the statement.
“I think in addition to moving forward and accelerating some of the work that we’re doing, I think it also represents a significant commitment by the administration to the community,” Daskalakis said.