HOUSTON, Texas – Nearly 3,600 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the US as of Tuesday, with at least one confirmed case in almost every state, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Biden administration is currently weighing whether to declare the outbreak as another public health emergency.
“We want to get ahead of (monkeypox),” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra in an interview with CNN. “You don’t want it to become a part of life. But how many people have died compared to COVID? Zero…We declare public health emergencies based on the data and the science, not on our worries,” he added.
In a memo obtained by The Washington Post, the Biden administration privately estimated to Congress that it may need nearly US$7 billion to mount an appropriate response to the monkeypox outbreak.
The US$6.9 billion total would be able to secure 19 million new vaccine doses for monkeypox and replenish about 4 million doses for smallpox preparedness efforts.
The money would also be used to buy antiviral treatments, expand testing, improve vaccine distribution and provide service coverage for uninsured and underinsured Americans.
Jynneos. Produced in Denmark, is the only vaccine specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for monkeypox.
That has caused significant complications in the US, with hundreds of thousands of doses stranded overseas for weeks awaiting inspection and delivery.
Monkeypox symptoms include fever, lesions and severe pain that may last for weeks.
The virus, which can be spread by skin-to-skin contact, is mostly affecting the gay and bisexual community, but children and pregnant women are also susceptible.
Health officials say monkeypox is at risk of becoming permanently entrenched in the US.
The Biden administration has distributed 330,000 vaccines and contracted for a total of 6.9 million Jynneos doses by mid-2023.
“There is no other place in the world where they have 300,000 doses of vaccines…distributed to the states, as we have here in America,” said Becerra.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Saturday that the global monkeypox outbreak was a public health emergency of international concern, its highest-level warning.
The US is contemplating a similar declaration, with several lawmakers pushing for COVID-like preparedness to have enough monkeypox funding.
“What we’re hoping is the experience of COVID will inform the response to this outbreak,” said US Rep. David Cicilline. (Anadolu)