White House to name monkeypox coordinator: 4 updates

The White House is planning to name a coordinator to oversee the nation's response to monkeypox and is considering people with expertise in epidemic response and government operations, The Washington Post reported July 25. 

Officials who were not authorized to discuss the plans said the White House is considering dozens of national security and health officials, including Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who previously led the nation's response to Ebola; Ashish Jha, MD, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator; and Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

The news comes as confirmed cases in the U.S. surpass 3,400, and follows the World Health Organization's July 23 decision to declare monkeypox a global emergency. 

Three more updates:

1. The Biden administration is also considering declaring its own public health emergency. Such a declaration would come from HHS and officials are aiming to make a decision this week, people familiar with the plans told the Post. The news outlet obtained a copy of a July 24 memo sent to President Biden that described an emergency declaration as "a tool that could be used to both align with WHO and raise additional awareness, as well as provide significant justification for HHS to use (though limited) tools that would aid in the response." 

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told CNN he rates monkeypox as a concern in the U.S. a 10/10 and when asked why he has not yet declared a public health emergency, he said, "We declare public health emergencies based on the data and the science, not on our worries. "As with COVID-19, our scientists are making decisions as we speak," he said, adding that the U.S. is in "a far better place than most of the world" in terms of testing,  vaccines and treatment. 

2. Vaccine demand continues to outweigh supply. San Francisco is among the latest cities grappling with the shortage, with the health department on July 25 announcing a monkeypox vaccine clinic at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital would be closed July 26 due to a lack of shots. News of long lines and people being turned away from monkeypox vaccine clinics throughout the U.S. have made headlines in recent weeks. 

The San Francisco Department of Health in a tweet announcing the closure said it, "has not been informed by the federal government of our allotment this week or when it will arrive. We have requested 35K doses & have only received 7,800." 

3. Monkeypox could eventually spread outside vulnerable groups, WHO officials say. Cases thus far in the global outbreak have been concentrated among men who have sex with men. WHO officials told CNBC the world may see broader spread among people outside of gay and bisexual communities. 

"This really might be the canary in the mine that's alerting us to a new disease threat that could spread to other groups," Dr. Catherine Smallwood, the WHO's senior emergency officer, told CNBC, explaining that it's not uncommon for a virus to spread more widely in the general population after starting mainly in a particular group. 

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