US health officials prepare to end mpox emergency as cases dwindle

"But we won't take our foot off the gas -- we will continue to monitor the case trends closely and encourage all at-risk individuals to get a free vaccine"

The Health and Human Services Department “does not expect that it needs to renew the emergency declaration when it ends on January 31,” Secretary Xavier Becerra said Friday in a statement. “But we won’t take our foot off the gas -- we will continue to monitor the case trends closely and encourage all at-risk individuals to get a free vaccine.”

Officials first declared mpox a public health emergency on Aug. 4, as cases of the virus, which causes painful sores and lesions, were soaring amid supply constraints on the only vaccine cleared to prevent infections.

The outbreak can be traced back to May, when cases cropped up among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. It then spread rapidly in countries all over the world. At the height of the outbreak in August, the US was recording hundreds of new mpox cases every day, more than any other country. Now the US is seeing fewer than 10 cases per day on average, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

President Joe Biden’s administration has faced criticism for what some called a sluggish response during the first few months of the outbreak, marked by testing bottlenecks, supply chain snags and restrictions on antiviral medication.

Demetre Daskalakis, the White House’s deputy mpox response coordinator, said officials took steps to address those issues. In August Biden hired Daskalakis from the CDC and Robert Fenton, an administrator from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to lead the US mpox response.

Starting in spring, the administration helped forged partnerships with commercial laboratories to expand testing capacity and increased vaccine supply by ordering millions more doses of Bavarian Nordic A/S’s Jynneos shot. They also invested in domestic manufacturing for the vaccine, which is normally produced in Denmark, and greenlit a technique to administer shots in a way that helped stretch doses. With a stronger supply, the US has also been able to open up vaccine eligibility.

Officials also worked with local health departments to vaccinate attendees at Pride festivals and large LGTBQ celebrations. Data on mpox cases and vaccine distribution became more robust and studies were initiated to better assess the Jynneos vaccine and the dose-sparing technique, as well as Siga Technologies Inc’s antiviral drug, Tpoxx. Results from some of those studies are still pending.

“It was sort of like my recipe book for how to end an outbreak or end an epidemic,” Daskalakis said in an interview. “We had science, we had community engagement and we had political will.”

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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