Biden Administration Plans to Declare Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency

The Biden administration is expected to declare monkeypox a nationwide public health emergency within the next week, according to sources close to the matter.

The monkeypox outbreak has already been designated a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization, despite a relatively low number of cases and a global death count that remains in the single digits.

The decision to make such a declaration in the United States is made by the Department of Health and Human Services. Although a spokesperson for HHS said the department “is continuing to explore options,” two sources have indicated that the agency is likely to declare the outbreak a public health emergency in the coming days.

The move would unlock a number of emergency capabilities for HHS, including accessing new money for research and outbreak prevention and being able to appoint new personnel.

In an interview, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security director Tom Inglesby said he believed monkeypox should be declared an emergency, even though it doesn’t pose a “high threat to the general population.”

“I do think it deserves to be one,” Inglesby said. “We’re having a lot of challenges around the country with their rate of rise in terms of new cases. It isn’t an emergency posing a … high threat to the general population. But it’s still moving … and has the potential to spread to additional vulnerable communities.”

Some experts, however, have pushed back against the rush to label monkeypox an emergency situation. In his article “Monkeypox or Moneypox?” Dr. Robert Malone criticized the WHO’s decision to declare the viral outbreak a PHEIC, noting that WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus’ decision stood in “direct contradiction of independent review panel advice.”

“Tedros made the declaration despite a lack of consensus among members of the WHO’s emergency committee on the monkeypox outbreak, and in doing so overruled his own review panel, who had voted 9 against, 6 for declaring the PHEIC.”

In the United States, 3,591 cases of the viral disease have been identified so far. Globally, 19,188 cases have been confirmed, including 5 deaths, all of which occurred in Africa.