Midterm Tricks: Biden Declares MONKEYPOX Health Emergency

By Eliana Regev | Saturday, 06 August 2022 08:35
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The Biden administration will utilize public health emergency powers to ramp up the process of distributing vaccines for monkeypox and enhance testing capacity.

The decision to declare monkeypox a public health emergency provides the administration additional authority to address the eruption, such as the ability to contract with private companies, such as vaccine distributors, to haste the deployment of the nation's supply of shots. It also gives federal health authorities greater access to state data to monitor the outbreak.

“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,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said.

The administration has been slammed for stumbling early on in addressing the unusual spread of monkeypox, first in Europe and then throughout the United States starting in mid-May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the whole number of cases in the U.S. at more than 6,600, primarily among men who have sex with men. Activists for gay and transgender groups have charged the Biden administration with a lack of urgency.

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“This moment harkens back to the beginnings of the AIDS crisis here in SF when the federal government abandoned us in a moment of public health crisis in the LGBTQ+ community! We need vaccine and increased resources now!” Tyler TerMeer, the CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said last week.

California, New York, and Illinois have already declared states of emergency; actions planned to increase supplies of vaccines and free up resources for beating back the outbreak. The Biden administration, well conscious of criticisms arriving from gay and transgender activists, has increased efforts to improve vaccine supplies by allowing shipments to the U.S. from the vaccine maker’s facility in Denmark and purchasing roughly 5 million more doses to be delivered by mid-2023. But the U.S. has so far made 1.1 million doses of vaccine available to states, and about 600,000 doses have been delivered to states, a small amount relative to the number of people who could benefit from the added protection.

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The White House has also gathered a group of public health officials meant to address the monkeypox spread. The administration announced on Tuesday that it appointed Robert Fenton, a regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to serve as the White House monkeypox coordinator. With him, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the director of the Division of HIV Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an expert in health issues affecting gay and transgender people, has been asked to serve as deputy coordinator.

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