The Biden administration has declared the current monkeypox outbreak a national public health emergency in the US. According to the CDC, as of August 4, the total number of confirmed cases has reached over 7,100, with over 26,500 confirmed cases having been reported worldwide.
By making this declaration, extra funding, measures and resources will be utilised in order to combat the virus which is currently disproportionately affecting gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM).
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,” Health Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters. He also spoke of his plans to encourage officials to accelerate countermeasures such as supplying vaccines and other treatments.
At present, the White House has reportedly made over 1.1 million vaccine doses available with the domestic diagnostic capacity at 80,000 tests a week. However, there is currently a limited supply of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine, which has led to this emergency situation.
I remain committed to our monkeypox response: ramping-up vaccine distribution, expanding testing, and educating at-risk communities.
That's why today's public health emergency declaration on the virus is critical to confronting this outbreak with the urgency it warrants.
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 4, 2022
Earlier this week, California, New York and Illinois all declared a state of emergency within their borders, and Ohio’s department of health called monkeypox “a disease of significant public concern”. A monkeypox response team was also established by the Biden administration, with the White House naming Robert Fenton as its National Monkeypox Response Coordinator, and Dr Demetre Daskalakis as its deputy coordinator.
Speaking on the nationwide public health emergency, Fenton said: “We will leave no stone unturned in our effort to combat this virus… This virus is moving fast.”
Meanwhile, closer to home, UK LGBTQ+ groups and sexual health charities have been demanding more action from their government. In an open letter addressed to Health Secretary Steven Barlay they wrote: “We are united as LGBT+ groups from across political parties in asking that the Government treat the monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency.”
The letter continues: “We cannot afford to allow monkeypox to become endemic in the UK. Luckily, we have the tools required to stop this outbreak and prevent further risk to health now. We ask that you do so urgently.”
The groups also emphasised the importance of offering “clear, non-stigmatising messaging” to gbMSM and other at-risk groups.
Monkeypox cases are continuing to rapidly rise among gay & bisexual men.
Today we’re joining LGBT+ groups for the other major political parties at Westminster to call on Health Secretary @SteveBarclay to take urgent action to tackle the outbreak: https://t.co/T2ygPybc5Q pic.twitter.com/GurWfdEfZY
— LGBT+ Labour (@LGBTLabour) August 5, 2022
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it has administered thousands of vaccines to date and that it is “working rapidly” to offer more appointments. “We have procured over 150,000 vaccines, and we’re working with partners – including the NHS and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) – to share targeted, non-stigmatising communications with the LGBTQ+ community,” the spokesperson added.
In Ireland, confirmed monkeypox cases have reached just under 100, with advocacy groups demanding action regarding vaccinations. On Wednesday, July 26, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced plans to extend the use of the smallpox vaccine to people at high risk of contracting monkeypox in Ireland, but so far, no further information has been provided on when and how the rollout will commence.
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