Health The Biden administration has declared the monkeypox outbreak a...

The Biden administration has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency

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The announcement was made during a briefing by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The administration has sometimes been criticized for its handling of the outbreak, and some have called for the government to declare a national emergency without delay.

Since the first US monkeypox case was identified in mid-May, there have been more than 6,600 probable or confirmed cases in the United States. Cases have been identified in every state except Montana and Wyoming.

The announcement follows last month’s announcement by the World Health Organization that monkeypox is a public health emergency of international concern. WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, as “an extraordinary event” that “poses a public health threat to other states due to the international spread of a disease” and “potentially requires a coordinated international response.”

Some cities and states, including New York City, San Francisco, California, Illinois, and New York, have already declared monkeypox emergencies, allowing them to free up funds and resources for their outbreak response.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden named Robert Fenton as the White House’s national monkeypox response coordinator. Fenton — the regional Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator who oversees Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada — will coordinate the federal government’s response to the outbreak. Director of the HIV/AIDS Prevention Division of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, serves as Deputy Coordinator.

The Biden administration has been criticized by some public health experts for not moving faster to combat the crisis.

A critique of the administration’s response, CNN reported earlier Thursday, HHS waited more than three weeks after the first confirmed case of monkeypox in the US to bottle and ship a large stockpile of monkeypox vaccine owned by the government and stored in Denmark for distribution to the US. The delay was part of concerns that once those vaccines were pulled out of bulk storage, their shelf life would be shortened.

Monkeypox can infect anyone, but the majority of cases in US outbreaks have been among men who have sex with men, including gay and bisexual men and people who identify as transgender. Transmission of the monkeypox virus requires close contact with an infected person, experts say.

The CDC initially announced that vaccines for monkeypox were being released from the Strategic National Stockpile and offered to “high-risk” contacts of monkeypox patients as well as health care workers who treated them. Federal health officials have since expanded vaccination efforts to focus on the broader community of men who have sex with men, the demographic that makes up the majority of U.S. monkeypox cases.

In addition to providing vaccines, the CDC has made a concerted effort since June to expand education and outreach to the LGBTQ community.

Possible changes in how the vaccine is administered

Health officials are considering changes to the way monkeypox vaccine is administered because the country is “at a critical inflection point” in the spread of the virus, said US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf told reporters Thursday.

“In recent days, it has become clear to all of us that we are at a critical inflection point, given the continued spread of the virus, requiring additional measures to address rising infection rates,” Califf said. “The goal is always to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

The commissioner said officials are considering enabling health care providers to use a dose-sharing method where one vial of the Geneos vaccine — previously used as a single dose — will be used to give five separate doses.

This approach will change the way Jynneos is administered, Califf said. Instead of injecting the vaccine into the subcutaneous fat layer, it will be given under the skin layer.

“Intradermal administration has some advantages, including improved immune response to the vaccine,” Califf said. “It is important to note that the overall safety and efficacy profile will not be sacrificed for this approach. Please know, we are exploring all scientifically viable options and we believe this may be a promising approach.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht and Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.

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