Monkeypox officially declared public health emergency

by A.J. Plunkett (

On August 4th, two days after appointing a national monkeypox response team, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that he was declaring the infectious disease a U.S. public health emergency (PHE).

The CDC as of late Wednesday was reporting more than 25,000 cases worldwide, with more than 6,600 in the United States alone. The U.S. was leading all other world nations.

The declaration follows state emergencies declared in New York, California, and elsewhere in the U.S.

With COVID-19 still considered a national emergency, this is the second PHE declaration in less than three years.

As with COVID, the PHE will last for the duration of the emergency, or 90 days and may be extended.

The World Health Organization declared the disease a global health threat on July 23. And on August 2, Becerra announced the creation of a national monkeypox response team, to be led by FEMA’s Robert Fenton as the White House response coordinator and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis as the White House national response deputy coordinator.

Fenton and Daskalakis “will lead the administration’s strategy and operations to combat the current monkeypox outbreak, including equitably increasing the availability of tests, vaccinations and treatments,” said Becerra in a statement.

“We look forward to partnering with Bob Fenton and Demetre Daskalakis as we work to end the monkeypox outbreak in America. Bob’s experience in federal and regional response coordination, and Demetre’s vast knowledge of our public health systems’ strengths and limits will be instrumental as we work to stay ahead of the virus and advance a whole-of-government response.”

“President Biden has called on us to explore every option on the table to combat the monkeypox outbreak and protect communities at risk,” said Fenton, according to the statement from HHS announcing the PHE declaration.  “We are applying lessons learned from the battles we’ve fought – from COVID response to wildfires to measles, and will tackle this outbreak with the urgency this moment demands.”

According actions to the statement:

  • The PHE declaration is in concert with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) work to explore new strategies that could help get vaccines to affected communities across the country, including using new dose-sparing approach that could increase the number of doses available, up to five-fold.
  • The public health emergency also carries important implications for data sharing with the federal government. Fifty-one jurisdictions have already signed data use agreements that will provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with information related to vaccine administration. Declaring the outbreak an emergency may provide the justification that the remaining jurisdictions need to sign their agreements. Additionally, it provides authorities to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to collect testing and hospitalization data.
  • As of August 4, HHS has shipped more than 602,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine to states and jurisdictions, an increase of 266,000 in the past week. HHS has allocated 1.1 million doses to states and jurisdictions in total and is making more doses available as jurisdictions use their current supply. HHS also announced today that it has accelerated the delivery of an additional 150,000 doses to arrive in the U.S. next month. The doses, which were slated to arrive in November will now arrive in the U.S. in September.

Among other things, a PHE declaration allows the federal government to access emergency funding and waive certain regulatory priorities as healthcare organizations respond to the emergency.

Following the COVID-19 declaration, HHS issued several blanket waivers for hospitals and other providers. Many of the waivers remain in place, while some have been revoked as the need has diminished. The online list of COVD-19 waivers was last updated in June.

For more on controlling monkeypox infections within hospitals and other facilities, go to For more on handling specimens and hazardous waste, go to