Biden Names FEMA, CDC Officials to Lead Monkeypox Response

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President Joe Biden on Tuesday appointed senior officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to coordinate the country’s monkeypox outbreak response.

The White House said FEMA’s Robert Fenton and the CDC’s Dr. Demetre Daskalakis as his deputy will coordinate strategies and operations to “combat the current monkeypox outbreak.”

This will include working to resolve vaccine supply and demand problems by “equitably increasing the availability of tests, vaccinations, and treatments.”

Fenton helped lead FEMA’s mass vaccination effort for COVID-19. Daskalakis runs the CDC’s HIV prevention division, is an expert in LGBT issues, and helped lead New York City’s COVID-19 response.

Monkeypox case numbers in the United States are currently over 5,800 since the first case emerged in May.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis speaks at the press conference for New York City Pride on June 27, 2021. (John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the pairing of Fenton and Daskalakis “is really a good combination,” The Associated Press reported.

“I personally think we’re dealing with a really serious issue here,” Fauci said, referring to the outbreak overall.

Health officials have emphasized that monkeypox can infect anyone and is not typically considered a sexually transmitted disease, but that is largely how it’s spreading.

The virus can also pass on through contaminated bedding, towels, and clothing. However, a major peer-reviewed study has found that the current outbreak is primarily being driven by the sexual activity of gay and bisexual men.

This might not always be the case, however, with a senior World Health Organization (WHO) official warning that “we should not expect that to remain such.”

Outreach to LGBT Community

Besides coming to a better scientific understanding of the current monkeypox outbreak, Fauci said swift interventions and outreach to the LGBT community, which is most at risk from the virus, was “absolutely” needed to combat the virus.

“That’s the reason why I think the combination of Bob and Demetre is really a good combination,” he said.

A mass monkeypox vaccination strategy like the push seen to get COVID-19 jabs is thought to be unlikely. Instead, experts expect a targeted use of available vaccine doses, along with other measures, might be enough to stop the virus.

However, monkeypox vaccine demand has outstripped supply in major cities like New York and San Francisco. There has been a limited supply of the FDA-approved Jynneos monkeypox vaccine in the United States, but the CDC said more supply is expected in the coming weeks. Jynneos is also known as Imvanex or Imvamune.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that the Biden administration has helped boost monkeypox testing to 80,000 tests per week and delivered more than 1.1 million vaccine doses.

“It’s very important as we’re trying to really have [an] aggressive approach to dealing with monkeypox,” Jean-Pierre said.

Besides testing, Jean-Pierre noted the importance of education and outreach to the LGBT community and public health officials to make “sure that they know exactly what to look for and what the treatment is.”

While health officials are familiar with monkeypox, which until this year was typically found in Africa where it was spread by animals, Fauci said there are still “a lot of unknowns” about the current outbreak.

The CDC and the WHO, which declared the virus a public health “emergency,” have noted the current outbreak is being spread in countries where monkeypox has never been.

U.S. case numbers jumped by the thousands from June to July, coinciding with LGBT events. Two major LGBT events in Europe in May are considered to be a sort of ground zero for the 2022 outbreak.

For this reason, the CDC officials in May considered but ultimately decided against issuing recommendations that would have seen Pride Month events cancelled.

Caden Pearson

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Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Contact him on caden.pearson@epochtimes.com.au