A Northwell Health worker holds the monkeypox vaccine at Cherry Grove on Fire Island, New York, where monkeypox vaccines were administered July 14, 2022.
James Carbone | news day | Getty Images
The Biden administration is considering declaring a public health emergency in response to the growing monkeypox outbreak, a senior White House health official said Friday.
dr Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said the administration is evaluating how a public health emergency declaration could bolster the US response to the outbreak.
“As far as I know, there is no final decision on this,” Jha said. “It’s an ongoing but very active conversation at HHS.”
Health and Human Services Minister Xavier Becerra has the power to declare a public health emergency under the Public Health Services Act. A statement can help mobilize federal financial support to respond to a disease outbreak.
So far, the US has reported more than 2,500 cases of monkeypox in 44 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The largest outbreaks are in New York, California, Illinois, Florida, DC and Georgia.
The Biden administration’s response to the outbreak has come under scrutiny by Congress as infections surge. In a letter to President Joe Biden this week, Fifty House Democrats urged the government to declare a public health emergency in response to the outbreak.
Senate Health Committee Chair Patty Murray said in a letter to HHS Secretary Becerra that she was concerned about the U.S. response to the outbreak. Murray said some patients and healthcare providers do not have the information and resources they need to test for monkeypox and respond to the outbreak.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said last week that demand for the vaccines is outstripping available supply. Many people are struggling to get vaccinated amid long lines outside clinics.
The US has so far shipped more than 300,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, called Jynneos, to city and state health officials, Jha told reporters on Friday. The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of approving an additional 786,000 cans stored at manufacturer Bavarian Nordic’s facility in Denmark for distribution in the United States
Jha said some of those shots have started shipping and will arrive in the US this week and next. The cans can be shipped to city and state health departments once FDA approval is complete, Jha said. According to HHS, the US has ordered an additional 5 million doses to be delivered by mid-2023.
Monkeypox is spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact during sex. Right now, men who have sex with men are at the highest risk of infection, but anyone can contract the virus through close physical contact. Those affected generally recover in two to four weeks, but the virus causes lesions that can be very painful. No deaths have been reported in the US
The CDC on Friday confirmed the first two cases of monkeypox in children. One case is a California infant and the other is a non-US infant. The cases are unrelated and the children likely contracted the virus through transmission within their household, according to the CDC.
The children are both in good health and are receiving the antiviral drug tecovirimat, according to the CDC. dr Jennifer McQuiston, a CDC official, told reporters Friday that the health agency is working to make it easier for doctors to prescribe tecovirimat to patients.
Currently, prescribing tecovirimat for monkeypox comes with additional red tape because it’s only FDA-approved for smallpox. Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox but causes a milder disease.
McQuiston said more than 97% of monkeypox patients providing demographic information are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.
“While this outbreak is spreading right now on a specific social network, I think we’ve reported from the beginning that there could be cases occurring outside of those networks and that we need to be vigilant and ready to respond to and respond to news.” broadcasting about it,” McQuiston told reporters.
The US has the capacity to do 80,000 monkeypox tests a week after setting up several commercial labs this month, according to the CDC. However, the tests swab the lesions caused by the virus, which can take weeks to develop from initial exposure. This means the US likely doesn’t have an accurate picture of how many people are infected, as patients can’t be tested until symptoms develop.