State public health officials have been critical of the administration's response.

State public health officials have been critical of the administration's response. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Biden Administration Enters a ‘New Phase’ of Monkeypox Response Amid Reports of Troubles

As of Aug. 17, there were 13,500 reported cases of monkeypox in the United States.

Top Biden administration officials announced a “new phase” of its monkeypox response on Thursday, following various reports highlighting missteps in the federal government’s efforts since the outbreak started in May.

The federal government’s monkeypox response has been “beset by turf wars, ongoing surprises and muddled messaging, with key partners frequently finding themselves out of sync as they race to catch up to a rapidly unfolding crisis,” The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. State public health officials have been critical of the administration's response, as Axios reported last week, as have members of Congress. 

“Having declared monkeypox a public health emergency, having safely expanded our supply of effective vaccines and every day receiving more fertile data about the outbreak from our many state and local partners, we now moved into a new phase of our efforts,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Beccera said during a briefing call on Thursday morning. “The fluid and collaborative allocation of vaccines and treatments to our partners will continue as part of this latest phase. But we will also now surge and target vaccines and treatments when and where that can be most effective.” 

Additionally, he said, “we know we have more to do to mitigate the spread of this virus and to protect those at risk, our work with our state and local partners could not be more critical than at this particular moment.” 

The actions announced on Thursday include HHS accelerating phase four of its National Vaccine Strategy and making an additional 1.8 million doses available for order as of Monday. “Jurisdictions that are adopting the intradermal administration of vaccine and have used 90% of their current supply of vaccine will be able to order additional doses,” according to a factsheet from the White House

This comes after the department announced earlier this week that it allocated and started distributing another 442,000 vaccine doses across the country. “The 442,000 doses reflect the number of total doses that could be available through intradermal administration,” said the White House. 

Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said the administration is “now receiving administration data from jurisdictions, which helps us ensure we are distributing vaccines equitably across the country, but also making sure they get to those who need them most.” Lack of data from states has been a challenge for federal officials. 

Other things announced include HHS launching a pilot program to allocate more vaccine to local health departments in areas that are hosting events likely to be attended by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offering assistance to those areas to prepare for these events; and the Biden administration making 50,000 courses of the treatment TPOXX available to jurisdictions next week.

“This allocation is in addition to over 20,000 courses [HHS’s Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response] has already deployed to jurisdictions from the [strategic national stockpile],” the White House stated.

During the briefing call CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said as of Aug. 17 there have been over 39,000 confirmed monkeypox cases worldwide across 94 countries. In the United States, there have been about 13,500 reported cases across 49 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Case data reported to the CDC shows that 98% of cases are in men. Of the more than 6,000 cases for which the agency has data on race and ethnicity, nearly 35% of cases are in white individuals, 33% are in Hispanic individuals and 28% are in Black individuals. The median age for cases is 35 and among the cases with known, recent sexual activity and gender, 93% of cases are among men who have sex with men.