Biden administration to distribute extra 1.8m monkeypox vaccine doses

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Cristóbal Herrera/EPA</span>
Photograph: Cristóbal Herrera/EPA

The Biden administration will accelerate the distribution of monkeypox vaccines by providing an additional 1.8m doses, as well as taking other steps to address the rapidly spreading disease amid criticism of the government’s slow response.

The new doses will accelerate the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) previous timeline, and HHS also announced a new program to coordinate additional doses for states and local health departments organizing mass events for at-risk communities, said the White House monkeypox response coordinator, Bob Fenton, during a morning briefing on Thursday.

Related: CDC director calls for ‘reset’ of agency amid criticism of Covid response

Moreover, the administration will offer an additional 50,000 courses of antiviral treatment for people who test positive. States and municipalities can begin ordering the supplies next week, reported Reuters.

State and local jurisdictions will only be able to acquire additional doses if they administer the vaccine intradermally and have used 90% of their current vaccine supply.

There are 13,517 cases of monkeypox in the US, according to the latest data from the CDC from Wednesday, with the majority in New York and California.

Both the Biden administration and the CDC have been criticized for their slow response to the spread of monkeypox, including sluggish vaccine rollout and poorly communicated information on the illness.

The New York Times reported on 3 August that the US was distributing only 1.1m monkeypox vaccines, less than one-third of the 3.5m doses that health experts said would be needed.

A lack of federal supplies has made distributing the vaccine difficult on a local level, with eligible patients struggling to secure doses.

The announcement of additional monkeypox vaccines comes after the CDC director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, announced a radical reorganization of the agency following criticism of its response to Covid-19, monkeypox and other recent public health crises. She said the goal was to make the CDC more nimble in response to public health emergencies, and to address issues of public trust.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky said on Wednesday.