Biden administration declares monkeypox a public health emergency
On Thursday, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared the spread of the monkeypox virus a public health emergency (PHE) in an effort to accelerate and improve the response of U.S. health officials.
According to a HHS press release, the declaration was announced by HHS secretary Xavier Becerra and signals the growing severity and urgency of the situation.
“Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris Administration,” said Becerra in a statement. “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.”
The announcement further encourages the work of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement widespread access to vaccines to high-risk communities, by increasing the number of available doses through a dose-sparing approach.
In addition, following the declaration, jurisdictions that have not already signed data use agreements to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to access information on vaccine administration, now have greater pressure to provide that data. The PHE also allows the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to collect testing and hospitalization data.
HHS has allocated 1.1 million doses to states and jurisdictions and are actively making more doses available as well as accelerating their delivery. The HHS said that an additionally 150,000 doses will be made available next month.
To combat the virus, the Biden administration plans to increase production and availability to vaccines, expand testing capacity and convenience, increase access to treatments, and work closely with members of the LGBTQI+ community.
“President Biden has called on us to explore every option on the table to combat the monkeypox outbreak and protect communities at risk,” said White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator Robert Fenton in a statement. “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.”