The Biden administration officially declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday.
Was it supposed to come to this?
The first case to hit the United States occurred in Boston on May 19. Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there are 6,617 cases across the country. There are three known cases in Marin and nearly 400 in San Francisco County.
This exponential spike is why President Joe Biden and Co. are being criticized for failing to grasp the seriousness of the outbreak. There are shortages of vaccine doses and tests, as demand climbs.
Some public health experts fear that we have already lost the chance to contain and even eliminate monkeypox here.
David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, told CNN the outbreak is “out of control,” adding that it’s something many public health officials have warned will happen. would happen if the federal government did not act urgently.
It didn’t, and here we are – from 1 to 6,617 cases in just under two and a half months.
If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic should have taught us, it’s that it’s a small world when it comes to spreading viruses. Easy international travel helps an outbreak in one country become an emergency in many others. The first case of monkeypox in the United States was detected in a man who reportedly recently traveled to Canada.
Dr David Heymann, former head of the World Health Organization’s emergency department, told The Associated Press in May that the unprecedented outbreak of monkeypox in developed countries was “a random event” that appears to have was caused by sexual activity at two recent raves in Europe.
Cases of monkeypox affect almost all men who have sex with men.
The lack of early action is familiar to the LGBTQ community.
“Program after program talked about the fear and stigma that gay men have in relation to (monkey pox), vaccine shortages, burnt-out staff, lack of funding to cover what has been a unforeseen public health emergency,” Harvey said. Managing monkeypox is similar to the early days of HIV and COVID-19, he said.
Unlike AIDS, which took years or even decades to manage with antiretroviral drugs, and COVID, which was tamed with lightning-fast developed vaccines, monkeypox vaccines already exist.
So how did the government miss the ball?
According to the New York Times, the monkeypox vaccine shortage was caused in part because the Department of Health and Human Services did not request early that bulk supplies of the vaccine it already had be bottled for distribution, according to several administration officials familiar with the matter.
By the time the federal government placed its orders, Denmark-based vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic had booked other customers and couldn’t get the job done for months, officials said – even though the government federal government had invested well over a billion dollars in the development of the vaccine.
This is bureaucratic clumsiness at its finest.
Declaring a public health emergency won’t solve vaccine shortages, but it could speed up the approval process for new treatments and give federal agencies more flexibility to respond to the outbreak.
Several days late, many dollars short.
Hopefully officials are careful this time around and learn what not to do if other fast-spreading viruses become problems in the future.
We cannot go through this again.
Written by the editorial board of the Boston Herald.