The Biden administration is declaring a public health emergency for the monkeypox outbreak in the United States, which now counts more infections from the virus than any other country in the world. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the decision at a briefing with top public health officials Thursday.
“This public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly out to the impacted communities. And it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak,” Robert Fenton, the newly appointed White House national monkeypox response coordinator, said at the briefing.
As it did for COVID-19, the move by Becerra to declare an emergency could unlock a broad swath of flexibilities in funding and regulations to respond to the spread of monkeypox.
For example, a spokesperson for Becerra’s department confirmed to CBS News earlier this month that it was working to see if millions of previously stockpiled — and now expired — doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine might be able to be deployed under an emergency use authorization.
Samples of the expired doses have been sent back to the manufacturer Bavarian Nordic for testing, though the spokesperson said it was “highly unlikely that these doses remain viable.”
Officials have said for weeks that they were mulling the move as the number of cases have swelled and demand for shots has far exceeded supply around the country.
Dr. David Agus answers monkeypox and COVID-19 questions
This week, President Biden also tapped officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to helm the country’s monkeypox response from the White House.
On Wednesday, the CDC said it had tallied at least 6,617 infections across the country. All but two states — Montana and Wyoming — have reported spotting at least one infection.
The majority of infections are still believed to be spreading through close intimate contact among men who have sex with men. While no deaths have been reported, patients often endure at-times excruciatingly painful rashes and lesions that can last for weeks.
CBS News reporter covering public health and the pandemic.