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The declaration would allow for more resources and funding.
The declaration would allow for more resources and funding. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Biden Administration declares Monkeypox a public health emergency amid rising cases & vaccine shortage

The announcement was Thursday, Aug. 4, two weeks after WHO declared it a Global Health Emergency.

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On Thursday afternoon, Aug 4, the Biden Administration announced that Monkeypox is a public health emergency, as cases rise and the vaccine supply remains very low. Some places have no vaccines, with additional doses not being delivered till later this year. 

Amid growing concerns from health officials, as well as some of the country’s biggest states — New York and California — declaring health emergencies, the announcement spreads much-needed awareness across the country as well as frees up some flexibility and funding to fight the outbreak. This comes just two years after COVID-19 was announced as a public health emergency announcement, and the world is not out of the woods on that one either. 

The announcement itself came from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra who discussed further details at the afternoon press conference.

“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” he said

Becerra also announced a second declaration that would further allow federal officials to speed up medical countermeasures, such as treatments and vaccines, by not requiring them to go through lengthy federal reviews. Furthermore, it gives greater freedom to how the vaccine supply is being administered. 

The announcement was seen to be coming sooner than later, especially after Biden named longtime official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Robert J. Fenton Jr., to be the coordinator of the national response to the outbreak and virus. Federal officials have debated over the last couple of weeks as to whether or not to make the declaration. Officials say the announcement is part of a bigger plan to contain the spread. 

Jynneos, the only FDA-approved vaccine for Monkeypox, is in limited supply, as more need the vaccine than is available at the moment. The U.S. has reportedly only received enough Jynneos vaccines to administer doses to over 550,000 people, but federal officials have determined that over 1.6 million people are high-risk individuals. The U.S. is in a muddle as it tries to boost access to treatments and vaccines with people in many metropolitan areas being turned away.

The CDC reports over 6,600 confirmed cases in the U.S. with the number expected to only rise considering the country only had eight confirmed cases in May, and now it sits at over 6,000 three months later. All but two states, Montana and Wyoming, have confirmed cases. 

New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, called for the declaration in a letter last week. 

"As the monkeypox virus continues to spread across the United States, I urge you to immediately declare a public health emergency so that the federal government can use every resource and tool available in its response and rapidly increase availability and access to vaccines, tests, and treatments nationwide,” she wrote 

She added: "The federal government must take every step possible to mitigate the threat monkeypox poses to the health of people in the United States before it is too late.”

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