The government of US President Joe Biden announced on Thursday monkey pox a public health emergency, a measure that should free up new funds, help with data collection and enable the deployment of additional personnel in the fight against the disease.
The move came as cases nationwide topped 6,600, with about a quarter coming from New York state, and experts warned that swift action was needed if the outbreak was to be contained to his beginnings.
“We are ready to take our response to the next level to solve this problem virusand we urge all Americans to take monkeypox seriously and take responsibility for helping us fight this virus,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on a call.
Observers believe the true number of cases could be much higher than official figures suggest, as symptoms of the current global outbreak, which began in May, have included subtle signs, such as single lesions, in addition to the more familiar generalized rashes.
This can lead to missed or misdiagnosed cases as the presentation is similar to common sexually transmitted infections.
The United States has so far delivered some 600,000 JYNNEOS vaccines – originally developed against the monkeypox-like virus, smallpox – but that number is still far from the roughly 1.6 million people considered most at risk and who most need the vaccine.
Supply chain constraints mean the country is not expected to receive its next shipment of 150,000 JYNNEOS vaccines – which were developed with US federal funding but are manufactured by a small Danish company called Bavarian Nordic – until September, said Dawn O’Connell, a senior HHS official.
Main driver of sexual activity
About 99% of U.S. cases so far have been in men who have sex with men (MSM), HHS said last week, and that’s what population authorities are targeting in the strategy. national immunization.
Unlike previous outbreaks in Africa, the virus is now mainly spread through sexual activity – but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says other routes are also possibleincluding sharing bedding, clothing, and prolonged face-to-face contact.
Authorities are making specific outreach efforts to the MSM community, including advising them about new types of symptoms and suggesting that they reduce their number of sexual partners until they are vaccinated.
There are a small but growing number of women and children who have also been affected through sexual or family contact.
Fortunately, no deaths in the United States have been reported, with all patients recovering so far. However, some have required hospitalization to deal with extreme levels of pain.
Some 14,000 doses of an antiviral drug known as tecovirimat, or TPOXX for its trade name, have been given to treat the disease – but the drug was developed against smallpox and its effectiveness against monkeypox has not is not yet fully understood.
The focus on MSM has raised concerns about stigma.
But writing in Medscape, University of California, San Francisco professor Monica Gandhi said the focus on the population most affected was helpful.
Five vaccines from one dose
The US statement comes after the The World Health Organization also designated the outbreak as an emergency last month. – something it reserves for diseases of greatest concern.
Also on Thursday, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf said his agency is considering changing the way the vaccine is injected, adopting an approach that would allow five times as many people to be vaccinated on the basis of the same supply.
The vaccine is currently administered under the skin, but the new technique would be to administer it into the skin, at a shallower angle.
It “basically means sticking the needle in the skin and creating a little pocket there for the vaccine to go into, so it’s really nothing very unusual,” Califf said.
The United States will first have to declare another type of emergency so that the new method of administering the vaccine can be given the green light, he added.