Monkeypox: Does it require an American health emergency?
The Biden administration is considering whether to declare the monkeypox outbreak in the country a public health emergency. It is also considering appointing a White House coordinator to oversee the response in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading in the United States. In the past few days, the White House and leaders of health agencies discussed the next steps to combat the virus, after the World Health Organization declared on Saturday (July 23) that monkeypox was a public health emergency of international concern, in the agency’s maximum warning. 17,000 people have been confirmed infected outside Africa since May, including about 2,900 people in the United States, and infections continue to rise in countries where the virus has not historically been found.
The first two cases of monkeypox in the United States were confirmed in children on Friday (July 22), possibly as a result of living in a home with an infected adult. But the federal health authorities have stated that there is no evidence so far of continued transmission between wider population groups. Three people, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some health officials believe the emergency declaration is necessary to give the government the authority to skip routine procedures and collect data on the spread of the virus, but others argue that the move is often cosmetic and will not address the shortage of vaccines and other challenges that have hampered the US response. Officials also raised questions about the permissibility of such an announcement regarding a virus that has only been confirmed to be linked to one US death.
The monkeypox strain accused of this outbreak is associated with fever, skin injuries and severe pain that can last for weeks, as well as complications in pregnant women, children and other vulnerable groups. Two of the three people, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that officials hope to reach a decision on the emergency declaration in the next few days, and this relates to announcing the distribution of about 80,000 additional vaccine doses after completing a review by the Food and Drug Administration. The decision is also complicated by internal politics.
Rights groups and health groups have called on the Biden administration to declare public health emergencies related to abortion and gun violence, and the White House has announced that it is considering a broader climate change emergency declaration, prompting debate over priority issues. The Biden administration also continued to renew public health emergency declarations that expire every 90 days, related to opioids and the coronavirus. Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services questioned the feasibility of declaring the emergency. A memo sent to President Biden on Sunday (July 24), a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, states that the ad is “a tool that can be used to align with the World Health Organization and promote awareness, as well as provide an important rationale for the Department of Health and Human Services to use tools (albeit limited) that would assist in the response.”
White House officials said the decision rests with Javier Becerra, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and that they remain concerned about the slow pace of the response. Patients reported that they still faced a delay of days in obtaining test results, doctors complained of bureaucratic obstacles when trying to prescribe treatment, and officials, such as New York Democratic Mayor Eric Adams, called for more doses of the vaccine because current supplies are running out quickly. Besera told CNN. that. that.” On Monday (25 July), his ministry was still objectively examining the declaration of a state of emergency. He stressed that there is a desire to tackle monkeypox and not become a concern for Americans. “But how many people have died compared to the Covid virus? Zero… We declare public health emergencies based on data and science, not on our concerns.”
Other experts see a 90-day emergency declaration as an important tool to focus the response, and the White House is also considering appointing a national coordinator for monkeypox, having concluded that the role is necessary to manage an increasingly broad response. Candidates for the job include Ron Klein, the White House chief of staff, who coordinated the US response to Ebola during the Obama administration, the White House coronavirus coordinator Ashish Jha, infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci and dozens of other national security and health officials. The White House declined to comment on this matter.
Some worry that it may already be too late to prevent the virus from gaining a foothold in the country given the rapid increase in cases and difficulties accessing testing. Biden administration officials object that the virus can still be contained, pointing to the US stockpile of treatments and vaccines and the rapid availability of tests.
“There is no other place in the world where 300,000 doses of vaccines have been distributed to the states, as we have here in America,” Becerra confirmed on Monday (July 25). Officials from the US Food and Drug Administration also said they are waiting for the emergency decision before pursuing a separate announcement that could speed up the use of medical countermeasures. A similar move during the coronavirus response allowed pharmacists to administer the vaccine to young children and doctors to administer the vaccine to out-of-state patients.
Health journalist and recipient of the George Polk Prize for his investigations into the Corona pandemic.
Published by special arrangement with the “Washington Post and Bloomberg News CIOs” service.
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