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US declares a national health emergency for monkeypox

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US declares a national health emergency for monkeypox

“National health emergency”. Three words to raise the guard against monkeypox. The United States, ten days after the global alert launched by the World Health Organization, is closing ranks against “monkeypox”. A decision, the one communicated by the Secretary of Health Xavier Becerra, which reaches the threshold of seven thousand cases throughout the country. And which represents the input for a health response action that aims above all at the identification of cases and the containment of infections: especially outside the metropolitan areas, where attention has not so far gone hand in hand with the spread of virus.

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From now on, federal agencies will be able to immediately divert new funds for research into vaccines and therapies. As well as additional resources will be allocated to health facilities, to increase the resources required to cope with the increase in cases of monkeypox. The measure – which will not allow the use of drugs and vaccines on an exceptional basis: a procedure for which a green light of another nature is requested from the Food and Drug Administration – will remain in force for at least 90 days. If necessary, it can be extended.

For scientists, however, a belated response

It was the rapid increase in cases that made the measure urgent: of health impact, but relevant above all from a media point of view. “One in four cases of monkeypox is in our country today,” he explained Carlo Del Rioan infectious disease specialist at Emory University (Atlanta) al New York Times. In his words also a veiled criticism of the country’s approach to the epidemic. “From a medical point of view, we are facing a failure. It is as if we were caught while we were sleeping behind the wheel.”

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A widespread opinion among experts, who for weeks brought their considerations to the attention of President Joe Biden. Hence the squeeze: necessary, but according to many also belated. To slow down operations, also the concomitance with the coronavirus pandemic: in the phase of containment, but still widespread in the United States. The Biden government – which in the meantime has launched a special task force for the management of this emergency, coordinated by Robert Fenton (official of the Federal Agency for the management of health emergencies) and by Demetros Daskalakis (director of the national agency for health prevention of HIV infection) – has come under the crosshairs of health critics also for the few indications given to the LGBTQ community in view of the gay pride celebrations in June. An event that marked a sort of watershed in the monkeypox epidemic, since in the following weeks the number of infections increased exponentially.

The United States has also come under criticism for the management of vaccines. In fact, over twenty million doses of Jynneos, the drug developed by the Danish company Bavarian Nordic, were stored throughout the country. A quantity set up as a strategic national reserve since 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the cases of anthrax letters. But of which just 2,400 doses have been used today: enough to vaccinate just 1,200 people. All the others, expired. A sign, in all likelihood, that monkeypox was not considered a potential imminent emergency. And so far the decision to buy large quantities of vaccine to be filled has been of little use: still standing in the company’s warehouses in Copenhagen. At this time, therefore, there are not even the doses to think about vaccinating the close contacts of the infected and the health personnel.

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