The Biden Administration on Thursday declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency, a move intended to dramatically ramp up the fight against the spread of the virus.
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a media briefing on Thursday.
What does a public health emergency mean?
The number of reported monkeypox cases has grown to just over 6,600 in the United States, up from less than 5,000 a week ago, Becerra said. The viral disease varies in severity but is rarely fatal and typically requires close physical contact for transmission. In the United States, the vast majority of cases have occurred among men who have sex with men.
The new declaration is expected to increase public awareness and education around monkeypox, give public health officials greater flexibility in deploying manpower and resources, and increase testing and data-tracking of cases, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The emergency declaration also has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to seriously weigh a “dose-sparing” approach for Jynneos, the only vaccine approved to protect against monkeypox, FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf announced at Thursday’s briefing.
“We’re considering an approach for the current doses of Jynneos that would allow health care providers to use an existing one-dose vial of the vaccine to administer a total of up to five separate doses,” Califf says, noting that the “goal has always been to vaccinate as many people as possible.”
The U.S. government has delivered more than 600,000 Jynneos doses to locales in the midst of monkeypox outbreaks, Becerra says.
But estimates suggest there are as many as 1.7 million people at the highest risk for contracting monkeypox right now, Walensky adds.
These include people living with HIV and gay and bisexual men, who constitute the “population we have been most focused on in terms of vaccination,” Walensky shares.
Under dose-sparing, doctors would perform a shallow injection between the layers of the skin – an intradermal shot — rather than the usual subcutaneous injection that reaches beneath the skin, Califf notes.
“There are some advantages to intradermal administration, including an improved