Topline

The White House will declare monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday as cases climb in the United States, according to multiple outletsas the federal government seeks to speed up vaccine distribution following criticism over the vaccination effort’s slow pace.

Key Facts

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Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra will make the announcement at a press conference Thursday, and will also share a plan to help jurisdictions ramp up vaccine distribution, the Washington Post reportedcivic administration officials.

The decision comes after several cities and states like New York and California had moved on their own to designate the virus—which has disproportionately affected men who have sex with men, and in particular those with multiple partners—as an emergency, part of a bid to streamline government responses.

Biden this week also named a new team to lead the White House’s monkeypox response, including Robert Fenton with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who will serve as the national monkeypox response coordinator.

Politico was the first to report Thursday HHS had circulated a memo that would declare monkeypox an emergency.

Big Number

6,617. That's how many confirmed cases of monkeypox and orthopoxvirus—the class of viruses that monkeypox belongs to—were reported across the US as of Wednesday, according to to the CDC. Cases have been confirmed in every state except Montana and Wyoming.

Key Background

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox—a virus that can result in painful lesions, chills, fever, headache and other symptoms—a public health emergency of international concern two weeks ago, as cases have increased rapidly since early May. Monkeypox is endemic to parts of Africa, where several deaths from the virus have occurred this year, though outbreaks there have typically received little international attention. As of July 27, the White House had shipped 336,000 doses of the two-shot Jynneos vaccine, which is the only vaccine US regulators have approved for monkeypox. The federal government announced last week it will distribute another 786,000 doses that were previously held up in Denmark while awaiting an FDA inspection, bringing US shots to a total of 1.1 million, which is still less than a third of the vaccines needed for people at highest risk of contracting the virus, according to to multiple outlets. Major cities in the US, including New York City and San Francisco, have been scrambling to get enough doses to vaccinate at-risk populations, in some cases delaying the second shot of the two-dose regimen to ensure more people can receive the first dose of the vaccine.

Contra

The federal government has faced criticism in recent weeks for its approach to ordering and distributing monkeypox vaccines. The US relies on a small Danish biotechnology company called Bavarian Nordic for the Jynneos shots, which the US had invested more than $1 billion in to help develop. The New York Times reports that in early May, as the virus began to spread, HHS waited too long to ask that vaccines the US already bought be bottled for distribution, and by the time the agency did, Bavarian Nordic was too busy assisting other clients to fill the US order for months. At the same time, failing to predict a spike in monkeypox cases, HHS allowed Bavarian Nordic to give 215,000 vaccine doses it owned to European countries instead of keeping them for the US, the Times reported. In an earlier investigation, the Times found the US also had 20 million doses of Jynneos in its national stockpile, but failed to refill most of those doses as they expired.

What To Watch For

The US has ordered 6.9 million doses of the Jynneos vaccine in total, but many of those doses are not set to arrive until next year. The next shipment of vaccines is not expected until October because the administration waited until June to ask that some 500,000 doses be bottled, after several other countries battling a rise in cases had already sent in their orders, according to to the Times.

Biden officials plan to declare monkeypox a public health emergency (Washington Post)

Biden administration making plans to use public health emergency authorities to combat monkeypox (politico)

US Could Have Had Many More Doses of Monkeypox Vaccine This Year (New York Times)

Monkeypox Vaccines: Here's How Many Have Been Shipped And Where As US Confronts Supply Shortages (Forbes)