WASHINGTON (dpa-AFX) - The U.S. government has declared the monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency.
Announcing this on Thursday, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said, 'This action will further strengthen and accelerate the Biden-Harris Administration's response in recognition of the continued rapid transmission of monkeypox in the U.S. and globally, and to signal the seriousness and urgency with which the Administration is responding.'
The declaration will expedite the distribution of vaccines, treatments and federal resources to control the spread of the virus, which has been largely seen among men who have sex with men.
The announcement comes on the heels of President Joe Biden appointing Robert Fenton of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.
Becerra said that ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden Administration. '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,' he said in a statement.
'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. '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,' he added.
The PHE declaration is in concert with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) work to explore new strategies that could help get vaccines to affected communities across the country, including using new dose-sparing approach that could increase the number of doses available, up to five-fold.
The public health emergency also carries important implications for data sharing with the federal government.
HHS has already shipped more than 602,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine to states and jurisdictions, an increase of 266,000 in the past week. HHS has allocated 1.1 million doses to states and jurisdictions in total and is making more doses available as jurisdictions use their current supply.
HHS also announced Thursday that it has accelerated the delivery of an additional 150,000 doses to arrive in the U.S. next month. The doses, which were originally scheduled to reach the country in November, will arrive two months earlier, by September.
The Biden Administration has a comprehensive strategy in place to combat the monkeypox outbreak. It includes significantly scaling the production and availability of vaccines, expanding testing capacity and making testing more convenient, reducing burdens in accessing treatments, and conducting robust outreach to stakeholders and members of the LGBTQI+ communities.
Since the first U.S. case of monkeypox was confirmed on May 18, the United States reported more than 5,000 cases.
However, no monkeypox-related death has been reported in the country so far.
The U.S. accounts for more than one fifth of the world's cases, spread over 83 countries.
The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency on July 23.
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