Biden Administration to declare monkeypox a public health emergency: report

Biden Administration to declare monkeypox a public health emergency: report
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President Joe Biden's administration is preparing to declare monkeypox a public health emergency, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

"The declaration would come from Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who is expected to discuss the plan at an afternoon briefing, said two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment," according to the Post. "The health secretary is planning a second declaration empowering federal officials to expedite medical countermeasures, such as potential treatments and vaccines, without going through full-fledged federal reviews. That would also allow for greater flexibility in how the current supply of vaccines is administered, the officials said."

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency – its most critical classification – on July 23rd. New York, California, Illinois, and other countries have also made similar proclamations.

READ MORE: Why monkeypox is an emergency but not a reason to panic

"Federal leaders have spent weeks debating whether to declare monkeypox a public health emergency, and officials said that Thursday’s planned announcement is part of a broader push to contain the virus. The announcement follows the White House’s decision this week to name Robert J. Fenton Jr., a longtime official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as the coordinator of the national response to the virus," the Post noted.

The virulent pathogen – which is endemic to Africa – has been spreading throughout at least seventy countries since late spring, and health experts are still struggling to understand why. The outbreak was first identified in England.

As of today, more than 6,600 cases have been reported in the United States, and that figure – believed to be significantly undercounted due to a lack of testing – has been doubling roughly every eight days. Although the vast majority of infections are non-fatal, the disease can still cause a serious flu-like illness, pain, and scarring from blisters. Transmission occurs during close personal contact or from contaminated surfaces, including clothing.

Vaccine rollout, meanwhile, has been a challenge. Inoculations are limited in supply and have been primarily reserved for high-risk populations.

READ MORE: Marjorie Taylor Greene attacks gay men to sell monkeypox T-shirts

"Federal officials have identified about 1.6 million people as highest risk for monkeypox, but the U.S. has only received enough Jyennos doses to fully cover about 550,000 people," per the Post.

Despite the clear dangers to public health, officials have been split on whether declaring an emergency is a wise idea.

"Some Biden officials have previously argued that declaring an emergency for monkeypox would call attention to the growing outbreak and strengthen the nation’s overall response. For instance, the emergency declaration can be used to compel hospitals to report more data about their monkeypox patients, and enable the Food and Drug Administration to expedite medical countermeasures that might otherwise take months or years to undergo traditional regulatory reviews," the Post explained.

It added that "Becerra’s decision to declare monkeypox an emergency could raise political complications for the White House, which has faced calls from advocates to declare gun violence a public health emergency and climate change a national emergency. Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and reproductive health rights groups have also lobbied the administration to declare access to abortion a public health emergency in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and led to new abortion restrictions around the nation."

READ MORE: 'They’re going to abuse those powers': DeSantis attacks states for declaring emergencies over monkeypox cases

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