Los Angeles Times
Monkeypox can still be stopped, U.S. officials say
WASHINGTON — The country’s monkeypox outbreak can still be stopped, U.S. health officials said this week, despite rising case numbers and so far limited vaccine supplies.
The Biden administration’s top health official countered criticism about the pace of the response and worries that the U.S. has missed the window to contain the virus, which has been declared a global emergency.
“We believe we have done everything we can at the federal level to work with our state and local partners and communities affected to make sure we can stay ahead of this and end this outbreak,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Thursday. But he added that local health officials “must do their part. ... We don’t have the authority to tell them what to do.”
The response from federal leaders came as they announced distribution plans for 780,000 shots of the twodose Jynneos vaccine. The doses will be allocated to states, cities and other localities based on their case numbers and the size of their populations that are considered high-risk for the disease.
Health departments in San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere say they still don’t have enough shots to meet demand and have stopped scheduling appointments for second vaccine doses to stretch supplies.
Becerra said the federal government has done its job and said the onus is now on local officials to use the tools available.
“We’ve made vaccines, tests and treatments well beyond the numbers that are currently needed available to all jurisdictions,” he said.
But one representative for specialty health clinics said Becerra’s comments showed a “lack of understanding for the full breadth of this crisis.”
“Clinics around the country are pleading with federal health officials for the information, supplies and staffing they need to successfully bring an end to this outbreak,” David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said in a statement. The group is pressing for $100 million in emergency funding for local health departments and clinics.
There were more than 4,600 reported monkeypox cases in the U.S. as of late Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and federal officials expect those numbers to rise.
More than 99% of reported cases are in men and the vast majority of those are among men who reported sexual contact with other men, though health officials have stressed that anyone can catch the virus.
The U.S. is now capable of testing 60,000 to 80,000 people per day, though Becerra said daily testing numbers are well below that.
The monkeypox virus mainly spreads through skin-on-skin contact, but it can also transmit through touching linens used by someone with the infection. People with monkeypox may experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. Many infected amid the outbreak have developed sometimes-painful zit-like bumps.
The U.S. has ordered 5.5 million more vaccine doses for delivery by mid2023 and has rights to the raw ingredients that could make 11.1 million more doses. U.S. officials said a massive vaccination campaign could still be avoided if communities and individuals take measures to avoid spread.
In San Francisco, Tom Temprano had an appointment to get his second dose next week but was recently notified that it was canceled because of limited supplies. Temprano, who is the political director of San Francisco-based Equality California, said he’s frustrated that health authorities have taken so long to respond.
“Especially coming out of, still, 2½ years into a pandemic, it’s just a very disappointing response for the first larger-scale public health crisis we’re facing coming out of that,” he said.
He also sees parallels to the slow government response to AIDS in the 1980s.
“I’ve heard from many folks ... that this feels similar in the lack of real concern and urgency to a disease that is right now disproportionately impacting the LGBTQ+ community,” said Temprano, 36.
The CDC estimates about 1.5 million Americans meet suggested criteria for vaccination, primarily men who have sex with men.
Nearly 340,000 vaccine doses have been distributed, but a CDC official acknowledged the federal government doesn’t know how many have been administered.