People line up to get monkeypox vaccinations at a new walk-in monkeypox vaccination site at Barnsdall Art Park on Tuesday, August 9, 2022 in Hollywood, Calif.
Brian Van Der Brug | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
The Biden administration will end the public health emergency declared in response to the monkeypox outbreak as new infections have dropped dramatically and vaccination rates have increased.
The Department of Health and Human Services does not expect it to renew the emergency declaration after it expires on Jan. 31 “given the low number of cases today,” the secretary of the HHS, Xavier Becerra, in a statement.
“But we won’t let go of the accelerator – we will continue to monitor case trends closely and encourage everyone at risk to get the vaccine for free,” he said. “As we enter the next phase of this effort, the Biden-Harris administration continues to work closely with jurisdictions and partners to monitor trends, particularly in communities that have been disproportionately affected.”
Becerra declared an emergency in August in a bid to speed up a vaccination and education campaign as the virus spread rapidly through the gay community. The spread of the virus, dubbed “mpox” by the World Health Organization on Monday to reduce the stigma associated with its name, has since slowed considerably.
Mpox has infected nearly 30,000 people and killed 15 in the United States since health authorities confirmed the first national case in May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American epidemic is the largest in the world.
But infections have slowed significantly since August, when new cases peaked at 638 a day on average. The United States is currently averaging about seven new cases a day, according to CDC data.
US health officials said the outbreak had slowed because vaccinations had increased dramatically and people had changed their behavior in response to education campaigns on how to avoid infection.
The vaccination campaign got off to a rocky start, with limited supplies leading to long queues at clinics and protests in some towns. But vaccinations increased dramatically after the White House created a task force and HHS declared a public health emergency.
More than 1.1 million doses of the Jynneos vaccine have been administered in the United States since the summer. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said about 1.7 million gay and bisexual people who are HIV-positive or take medication to prevent HIV infection are most at risk of mpox.
Mpox has spread primarily through sexual contact among men who have sex with men. The virus causes pimple-like rashes or blisters that can develop in sensitive areas and be very painful. Although mpox is rarely fatal, people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness.
The CDC, in a report released in late October, said the United States was unlikely to eradicate mpox in the near future. The virus will likely continue to circulate at low levels primarily in communities of men who have sex with men, according to the CDC. Although anyone can catch mpox, there is little evidence that the virus is spreading widely in the general population so far, according to the CDC.
This year’s global mpox outbreak is the largest in history with more than 80,000 confirmed cases in more than 100 countries. The current outbreak is highly unusual as the virus is spreading widely between populations in Europe and North America.
Historically, mpox has spread at low levels in remote areas of West and Central Africa where people have caught the virus from infected animals.