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  • Washington Highlights

    HHS Declares Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency

    Katherine Cruz, Legislative Analyst
    For Media Inquiries

    On Aug. 4, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra declared monkeypox a public health emergency (PHE). The declaration came after New York, Illinois, and California declared monkeypox a PHE, and following President Joe Biden's appointment of Robert Fenton as the White House national monkeypox coordinator and Demetre Daskalakis, MD, MPH, as deputy coordinator.

    “We're prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus," Becerra said at a monkeypox news briefing. “And we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus."

    In a press statement announcing the declaration, the HHS indicated that the PHE designation “is in concert with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) work to explore new strategies that could help get vaccines to affected communities across the country, including using [a] new dose-sparing approach that could increase the number of doses available, up to five-fold.” The press statement also outlined the PHE’s “important implications for data sharing with the federal government,” including opportunities to promote vaccine administration data use agreements between jurisdictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and authorizing for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to collect testing and hospitalization data.

    Fenton, who joined Becerra on an Aug. 4 call with colleagues, said, “This public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly out to impacted communities, and it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak.”

    As part of the administration’s monkeypox strategy and response, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy also announced on Aug. 4 a “coordinated call to action with science and technology leaders and advisors” from around the world, “asking scholarly publishers to make all monkeypox-related research and data immediately available to the public.”