Health Minister Xavier Becerra declared monkeypox a public health emergency

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Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday declared monkeypox a public health emergency in an effort to unlock additional flexibility and funding to combat the spread of the virus.

“We are ready to take the response to the next level in the fight against this virus, and we encourage every American to take monkeypox seriously and take responsibility to help fight this virus,” Becerra said in a briefing Thursday.

The health secretary is also considering a second declaration that would authorize federal officials to expedite medical countermeasures, such as possible treatments and vaccines, without going through a full federal review. It also allows more flexibility in how existing vaccines are administered, Becerra said.

As of Thursday afternoon, federal officials said they were finalizing the official declaration of a public health emergency to be posted on the HHS website.

The World Health Organization declared monkey disease a global health emergency on July 23. Here’s what you need to know about how it spreads. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: CDC/The Washington Post)

The administration’s announcement follows similar decisions by health officials in New York, California and Illinois and global health leaders. The World Health Organization announced on July 23 that monkeypox is an international public health emergency, its highest level of alert, and that the virus has been reported in about 70 countries where the virus has not spread in history.

Post Question: What questions do you have about monkeypox?

Health officials said Thursday they are taking steps to improve access to Ginneos, the only vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration to protect against the virus through a two-dose regimen. Federal officials identified about 1.6 million people as being at high risk of monkeypox, but the U.S. received enough Jynneos doses to fully cover about 550,000 people. Officials have expedited an additional 150,000 doses of Jynneos to arrive in September, and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf told reporters that a “dose savings” plan is being seriously considered.

“We are looking at an approach that would allow healthcare workers to use a single-dose vial of vaccine to administer a total of five separate doses,” Kalif said, adding that the plan was “good.” will be finalized in the coming days.

Federal leaders have debated declaring monkeypox a public health emergency for weeks, and officials said Thursday’s planned announcement was part of a broader effort to contain the virus. The announcement was made this week by longtime Federal Emergency Management Agency official Robert J. It follows Fenton Jr.’s decision to name him coordinator of the national response to the virus.

“This public health emergency allows us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatment faster in affected communities. It allows us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can more effectively track and attack this outbreak,” Fenton said Thursday.

Thursday’s announcements were echoed by President Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill, including House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), who urged the administration to declare a state of emergency.

“This important step will allow the Biden administration to build on the progress it has made in expanding access to vaccines, testing and treatment across the country,” Maloney said.

But public health experts delayed Thursday’s announcement, saying the emergency declaration was long overdue to expedite more funding and flexibility.

“The time has come,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of HSE Directors. “With this declaration, the administration must act quickly to allocate funding to state and local health departments for clinical services … to combat monkeypox.”

The top Republican on the Senate Health Committee said the Biden administration failed to move quickly enough to contain the virus.

“I am amazed at how disconnected the administration is from reality for health care providers, public health workers, and most importantly, patients,” Sen said. In a letter to Becerra, Richard Burr (RN.C.) called the government’s response a “catastrophic failure of public health.”

More than 6,600 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the United States since May 18, the vast majority of which are among men who have sex with men — a total that doubles every 8 days, but which experts say is a significant undercount. Officials also reported at least five cases of monkeypox in children, believed to have been contracted through households.

WHO staff Last week, it recommended that men who have sex with men temporarily reduce the number of sexual partners to reduce transmission.

What to know about monkeypox symptoms, treatment and prevention

Health officials have emphasized that monkeypox poses far less of a threat than the coronavirus — a handful of deaths worldwide and none in the United States — because the virus causes fever, swollen lymph nodes, rashes and often painful sores. it’s possible. week and resulting in scarring. The virus is also associated with more severe cases in children, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals.

The disease, which comes from the same family of viruses as smallpox, is spread primarily through close contact, and experts believe skin-to-skin contact during sex is the main source of transmission in the current outbreak. But they warn that the virus could spread through other forms of contact and spread beyond the gay community, citing several cases involving women and children.

Some Biden officials have previously argued that declaring a monkeypox emergency would draw attention to the growing epidemic and bolster the country’s overall response. For example, emergency notification could be used to compel hospitals to provide more information about monkeypox patients and allow the Food and Drug Administration to expedite medical countermeasures that would otherwise take months or years to pass through traditional regulatory review. Many public health experts also confirmed the World Health Organization’s decision to declare a public health emergency, saying a coordinated global response is “critical” to defeating the growing epidemic.

Federal officials on Thursday also released an “options memo” on how the public health emergency could improve the nation’s response to monkeypox, according to the two officials, who were not authorized to comment. POLITICO first reported the existence of the memo.

But Becerra’s decision to declare a monkeypox emergency could pose political challenges for the White House, which has faced calls from advocates to declare gun violence a public health emergency and climate change a national emergency. Democrats like you. Rep. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and reproductive health groups also lobbied the administration to declare access to abortion a public health emergency after the Supreme Court overturned the latest ruling. Roe v. Wade and brought new restrictions on abortion across the country.

The Biden administration also continued to renew public health emergency declarations for opioids and the coronavirus that expire every 90 days.

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