While federal officials weigh a national public health emergency declaration around the monkeypox outbreak, San Francisco and New York state began sounding the alarm Thursday.
San Francisco became the first major US city to declare a local health emergency on monkeypox in an effort to strengthen the city’s preparedness and response amid high demand for the vaccine.
The declaration, which goes into effect Monday, is a legal action that allows city departments to mobilize and coordinate more effectively, Mayor London Breed’s office said in a statement. It also allows for future reimbursement by state and federal governments.
“We need to be prepared and this declaration will allow us to serve the city better,” Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax said. “Our COVID-19 response has taught us that it is imperative that we mobilize city resources. The declaration helps us ensure we have all the tools available to augment our outreach, testing and treatment, especially to the LGBTQ+ who remain at highest risk for Monkeypox.”
Added Dr. Susan Philip, the San Francisco public health officer, “We have always been on the forefront of advocacy and action for LGBTQ+ health and I’m issuing this declaration to reaffirm our commitment to the wellbeing of these communities and to allow us to move more quickly to obtain and distribute the resources needed to help those disproportionately impacted.”
The San Francisco Department of Public Health has confirmed 261 cases of monkeypox in the city, while California has a total of 799 cases.
In New York, state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett declared an imminent threat to public health, citing the virus’ rapid spread.
“This declaration means that local health departments engaged in response and prevention activities will be able to access additional State reimbursement, after other Federal and State funding sources are maximized, to protect all New Yorkers and ultimately limit the spread of monkeypox in our communities,” she said in a statement.
New York has 1,247 probable or confirmed monkeypox cases, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state has gotten more than 60,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine, the US Department of Health and Human Services says.
San Francisco’s health department requested 35,000 doses to meet the overwhelming demand there but said it has received only 12,000 doses as of Thursday. About 4,220 more are expected this week, the mayor’s office said.
In Seattle, King County health officials say they have received only 4,720 doses of Jynneos. That’s only 6% of the 80,000 doses they would like to have to cover the 40,000 people at elevated or high risk of monkeypox.
Jynneos works best when given as two doses at least four weeks apart, but with soaring demand and limited supply, some jurisdictions have focused on getting first doses in place now and figuring out second doses later.
HHS says that 338,000 vaccine doses have been delivered across the country. The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized 786,000 additional doses of the Jynneos vaccine, and jurisdictions can place orders starting Friday.
In Washington, the federal government is continuing to monitor the response to monkeypox and will use that to consider whether to declare the outbreak a public health emergency, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said Thursday.
“What I can tell you is, we continue to monitor the response throughout the country on monkeypox,” he said. “We’ve made vaccines, tests and treatments well beyond the numbers that are currently needed, available to all jurisdictions who manage their public health systems.
“We will weigh any decision on declaring a public health emergency based on the responses we’re seeing throughout the country. Bottom line is, we need to stay ahead of it and be able to end this outbreak.”