Federal health authorities on Friday warned that the monkeypox virus will continue to spread across the nation, with cases mounting throughout July and August as exposures spread and the government speeds up its faster reporting system for U.S. states and territories.
That said, the Biden administration is immediately boosting the availability of the Jynneos vaccine in response to the outbreak, an official from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced.
Leaders from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) addressed reporters during a media call, providing information about vaccine distribution and expansion of testing capacity for the virus that can cause a characteristic rash and other symptoms.
“I would like you to all understand that we anticipate an increase in cases in the coming weeks,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said during the call.
That’s because the CDC has transitioned its reporting process to a “much shorter, streamlined reporting form, which will make it quicker and easier for states to report cases in real-time,” Walensky said.
“With more cases in the United States now, we expect to start to see the resulting exposure from these cases in the coming weeks,” she added. Testing capacity now is 70,000 tests per week but will expand soon, she said.
In Florida, the caseload continues to increase, with 154 cases across 15 counties, according to the latest data from the Florida Department of Health. As of Friday afternoon, the most infections were in Broward County (98) and Miami-Dade (26) counties.
Although anyone can contract the monkeypox disease, Walensky said, the vast majority of cases have been involved with men who have sex with men.
“What we know right now is that monkeypox spreads primarily with close skin on skin, physical contact, by touching objects like sheets or towels that may have been used by somebody with monkeypox, and through close face-to-face interactions.”
To prevent spread, “avoid contact, including intimate contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox,” Walensky said.
Monkeypox vaccines expanded
Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, said during the call that the federal government “has distributed approximately 156,000 doses nationwide” of vaccine as of Thursday.
According to a press release Friday from HHS, the agency has ordered “another 2.5 million doses of Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos vaccine to respond to the current monkeypox outbreak.” Those doses won’t begin arriving before 2023.
However, 131,000 doses will become available for ordering by states and jurisdictions for delivery as early as Monday, O’Connell said.
“Once states and jurisdictions receive vaccines, they make the decisions regarding how best to distribute them within their jurisdictions. …We continue to fill the pipeline of future doses.”
County health departments across Florida are currently offering vaccines, according to an email Friday to the Florida Phoenix from a state health official. On its website, the Florida Department of Health provides information about vaccines, treatments, symptoms and locations for vaccines.
“The federal government determines allocations – and any limited supply is not the fault of states receiving federal allocations,” said Weesam Khoury, deputy chief of staff for the Florida Department of Health.
“Florida has pulled down full allocations from the federal government and will continue to do so as additional doses become available.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has scheduled a meeting next week (July 21) to assess whether the monkeypox disease “constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”
The outbreak has spread to Florida, the nation and across the globe.
The CDC has reported 11,689 confirmed monkeypox cases in 65 countries. Overall, 223 cases come from six countries that have historically reported monkeypox. The other 11,466 cases are from 59 countries.
The highest numbers of cases are from Spain (2,447), Germany (1,790), United Kingdom (1,735), United States (1,469), and France (912).