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Administration Announces First Phase of Monkeypox Response

The Biden administration announced June 28 the first phase of its national monkeypox response strategy. This phase aims to deploy vaccines rapidly in the most affected communities, make testing easier, and engage community leaders and stakeholders to mitigate the spread of the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tracked monkeypox cases since the first U.S. case was detected May 18. The monkeypox virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes the virus that causes smallpox.

Vaccine Distribution

The administration plans to distribute the two-dose JYNNEOS vaccine, which is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for protection against smallpox and monkeypox in individuals 18 years and older with high risk for infection.

Administered as a post-exposure prophylaxis, the vaccine is available to persons who have a confirmed and presumed exposure to monkeypox. This includes:

  • those who had close physical contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox;
  • those who know their sexual partner was diagnosed with monkeypox; and
  • men who have sex with men who have recently had multiple sex partners in a venue where there was known to be monkeypox or in an area where monkeypox is spreading.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) immediately will allocate 56,000 vaccine doses currently in the Strategic National Stockpile to states and territories, prioritizing jurisdictions with the highest number of cases and population at risk. HHS expects more than 750,000 doses of JYNNEOS to be made available over the summer.

To supplement the JYNNEOS supply, states and territories also may request a second vaccine, ACAM2000, which is FDA-approved for protection against smallpox and believed to protect against monkeypox. However, ACAM2000 carries a greater risk of serious side effects, including inflammation and swelling of the heart, than JYNNEOS,. This vaccine cannot be provided to people who are immunocompromised or who have heart disease.

Increased Testing

From day one of the monkeypox outbreak, health care providers have had access to an FDA-cleared test to detect monkeypox. The CDC since has scaled testing to 78 sites, primarily state public health laboratories, in 48 states.

CDC on June 22 announced that it began shipping tests to five commercial laboratory companies to  increase monkeypox testing capacity and access in every community. To further expand testing, CDC on June 9 published its protocol for any laboratory to use the FDA-cleared monkeypox test.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Maryellen Guinan is a principal policy analyst at America's Essential Hospitals.

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