Monkeypox could be the nation's next public health failure: Dr. Scott Gottlieb

The U.S.' monkeypox outbreak could become "one of the worst public health failures in modern times" if it becomes endemic, according to Scott Gottlieb, MD, former FDA commissioner. 

Dr. Gottlieb in a July 30 guest essay published in The New York Times cited a slow ramp up of testing, inadequate vaccine supply and "an absence of coordination among federal agencies." His warnings come as cases nationwide surpass 5,100, CDC data shows. 

"If monkeypox gains a permanent foothold in the United States and becomes an endemic virus that joins our circulating repertoire of pathogens, it will be one of the worst public health failures in modern times not only because of the pain and peril of the disease but also because it was so avoidable," Dr. Gottlieb writes. 

The first cases confirmed or suspected in Europe in May "should have been a code red for federal infectious disease response" here in the U.S., he said, criticizing the timeline for expanding testing to commercial labs, which didn't start until late June. 

Part of the nation's inability to promptly and adequately respond to disease outbreaks is the CDC's lack of authority and broad range of focus, he said, calling on the Biden administration to prioritize agency reform and get the CDC fully focused on pandemic response. 

"The Biden administration needs to get the CDC back to its disease control roots, by transferring some of its disease prevention work to other agencies. The FDA can handle smoking cessation, leveraging its regulatory toolbox. The National Institutes of Health can tackle cancer and heart disease. Focus the CDC more on its core mission of outbreak response. And imbue the agency with the national security mindset that it had at its origins," Dr. Gottlieb said. 

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