People queue to get vaccinated against monkeypox at a new walk-in monkeypox vaccination site at Barnsdall Art Park on Tuesday, August 9, 2022 in Hollywood, California.
Brian Van Der Bruges | 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 fallen dramatically and vaccination rates have increased.
The Department of Health and Human Services does not expect to renew the emergency declaration after the Jan. 31 expiration “given the low number of cases today,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Friday.
“But we won’t take our foot off the gas – we will continue to monitor case trends closely and encourage anyone at risk to get a free vaccine,” he said. “As we move into 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 a state of emergency in August to speed up a vaccination and education campaign as the virus was spreading quickly in the gay community. The spread of the virus, dubbed “mpox” by the World Health Organization on Monday to reduce the stigma attached to its name, has since slowed drastically.
Mpox has infected nearly 30,000 people and killed 15 in the United States since health officials confirmed the first domestic case in May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US outbreak is the largest in the world.
But infections have slowed dramatically since August, when new cases peaked at an average of 638 per day. There are currently an average of about seven new cases per day in the United States, according to CDC data.
US health officials said the outbreak has slowed because the number of vaccinations has increased dramatically and people have changed their behavior in response to awareness campaigns to avoid infection.
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The vaccination campaign got off to a rocky start, with limited supplies leading to long lines at clinics and protests in some cities. However, immunizations increased significantly 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 are taking medication to prevent HIV infection are at highest risk from mpox.
Mpox spread primarily through sexual contact among men who have sex with men. The virus causes skin rashes that resemble pimples or blisters that develop in sensitive areas and can be very painful. Although mpox is rarely fatal, people with compromised immune systems are at greater risk of serious illness.
The CDC said in a report released in late October that the US is unlikely to eradicate mpox anytime soon. According to the CDC, the virus is likely to continue circulating at low levels primarily in communities of men who have sex with men. Although anyone can contract MPOX, there is little evidence to date that the virus has spread widely in the general population, 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 spreads widely between people in Europe and North America.
In the past, mpox spread at low levels in remote areas of West and Central Africa where humans caught the virus from infected animals.