Biden Administration Declares Monkeypox a ‘Public Health Emergency’ Across US

The Biden administration on Thursday declared a public health emergency for monkeypox in a bid to unlock funding and more powers to deal with the virus, which officials say is primarily spreading among homosexual males.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccera issued the declaration, saying in a Thursday conference call with reporters that the move will allow for quicker distribution of the monkeypox vaccine. Becerra was joined by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf on the call.

“I will be declaring a public health emergency on monkeypox … we’re [taking] our response to the next level,” Beccera said, adding Americans should take “monkeypox seriously.”

Walensky said that the public health declaration will provide more “access to resources “ and will “enable personnel to be deployed to the outbreak” in some localities. The emergency will also “further raise awareness” and encourage testing for it, she added.

It comes after officials in New York, Illinois, California, some cities, and the World Health Organization declared respective emergencies for monkeypox. The head of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reportedly overruled an expert advisory committee to make the declaration on July 24, while the U.N. agency confirmed the virus is in about 70 countries outside of Africa.

Along with Tedros, the heads of various federal, state, and local health agencies have said that the large majority of cases are found among homosexual males. However, they have said that the virus is spreading among other groups, including children.

Earlier this week, the White House named Robert J. Fenton Jr., a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official, to be the monkeypox response coordinator. That move echoes one made in early 2020 to name a response coordinator to COVID-19, with the first being former Vice President Mike Pence.

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