WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden has selected top officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to lead the national fight against monkey pox.
FEMA’s Robert Fenton will serve as the White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator, and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis will serve as deputy coordinator, the White House said in a statement Tuesday.
The two officials will lead the administration’s strategy and operations to combat the ongoing monkeypox outbreak, including increasing the availability of tests, vaccines and treatments, according to the statement.
The appointments come as the administration has faced criticism over the accelerating pace of availability of the vaccine for monkeypox, a rare viral infection that usually does not cause serious illness but can lead to hospitalization or death. Monkeypox is spread through close physical contact between people.
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More than 20,000 cases of monkeypox have been detected worldwide, with more than 5,800 cases reported in the United States. Last Friday, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern,” joining COVID-19 and polio in that designation.
clinics in big cities like new york The US and San Francisco say they have not received enough two-dose vaccine to meet demand, and some have had to stop offering the second dose of vaccine to ensure supplies of the first doses.
Several Democrats on a key House panel on Monday called on the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Homeland Security to examine the federal government’s preparations for and response to the monkeypox virus.
“When there is an outbreak of an infectious disease, the federal government has an obligation to make vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics widely available without undue delay,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the Committee on House Homeland Security, and other members of the panel wrote in a letter to the GAO.
“We are concerned that the pace of the federal response to monkeypox has allowed the virus to spread for two months and delays in the distribution of tests and vaccines have undermined efforts to contain the virus…allowing the virus to begin to establish itself as a rare disease that spreads rapidly. sickness in the meantime,” the letter said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that 1.1 million doses of the monkeypox vaccine have been distributed in the United States, including 737,000 doses that have come out in recent days. More than 80,000 tests for monkeypox have been administered weekly, he said.
Will the United States declare a public health emergency?
Asked if Biden plans to declare a public health emergency, Jean-Pierre said the decision rests with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
But, “we are considering all policy options to help end this outbreak,” he said. “That is urgent, and that is important to us.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s top scientific adviser, praised the appointment of Fenton and Daskalakis late Monday, saying he hoped they would strengthen coordination among the various federal agencies involved in the investigation. monkeypox response.
“Personally, I think we’re dealing with a really serious problem here,” Fauci said. “There are many unknowns. Much is known about monkeypox, but there are still many unknowns. So we were really able to implement the interventions that we have, get a better sense of the natural history and scope and absolutely reach out to the community, and that’s why I think the combination of Bob and Demetre is really a good match. ”
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Who are Robert Fenton and Demetre Daskalakis?
Fenton serves as the regional administration for FEMA Region 9, which covers the West and has nearly 50 million people in its area of responsibility. He twice served as Acting Administrator for FEMA and led multiple prevention, response and recovery operations throughout his career, including for natural disasters, disease outbreaks and complex humanitarian operations.
Daskalakis is director of the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention. He is known as a national expert on health issues affecting LGBTQIA+ communities. He previously oversaw infectious disease management for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one of the largest departments in the country.
Both played a role in making COVID-19 vaccines more accessible to underserved communities and closing the equity gap in adult vaccination rates, through the implementation and execution of FEMA mass vaccination sites in some of the most underserved communities in the country.
Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Monkeypox: Biden Picks FEMA Official to Lead Fight Against Outbreak