Window to control monkeypox ‘starting to close,’ former FDA chief says

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Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the window for controlling the spread of monkeypox is “starting to close” as cities across the country are struggling to vaccinate people against the virus.

Gottlieb, a member of the board at Pfizer, discussed the state of the monkeypox outbreak while speaking with Margaret Brennan on CBS News’s Face the Nation.

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“I think the window for getting control and containing it probably has closed, and if it hasn’t closed, it’s certainly starting to close,” Gottlieb said.

There have been 1,814 confirmed cases of monkeypox across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus,” per the agency. “Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.”

The spread has taken place more than two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which remains another health concern as a dominant omicron subvariant appears to be more vaccine-resistant.

Gottlieb also said problems with containment come from not testing a wide enough focus population and that there may be too much emphasis on testing gay men.

“We’re probably detecting just a fraction of the actual cases because we had, for a long time, a very narrow case definition, and by and large, we’re looking in a community of men who have sex with men and at STD clinics,” Gottlieb said. “We’re looking there, finding cases there, but it’s a fact there’s cases outside that community right now. We’re not picking them up because we’re not looking there. This has spread more broadly in the community. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s thousands of cases now.”

Cities across the country have struggled to get populations most affected by monkeypox vaccinated due to a lack of vaccines. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, also speaking on Face the Nation, said her city needed far more monkeypox vaccine doses than have been provided.

“We need more vaccine. We’ve gotten just over 8,000 doses. We estimate that we need about 100,000 doses to address the current target population,” Bowser said.

The Biden administration announced on Friday it had purchased 2.5 million doses of Bavarian Nordic’s two-dose Jynneos vaccine for orthopoxvirus to combat the outbreak.

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Gottlieb says the latest situation surrounding vaccinations should be improving as more doses are ordered and received.

“I think the vaccine situation is going to improve dramatically this week. You’ll see hundreds of thousands of doses become available,” Gottlieb said.