WASHINGTON: The White House said Sunday it was confident authorities could “eliminate” monkeypox from the United States by speeding up the rollout of vaccinations and treatment to combat the virus’s spread.
“I think monkeypox can be contained, absolutely,” doctor Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told CBS News talk show “Face the Nation.”
“We have acted swiftly,” Jha said, pushing back against accusations that President Joe Biden’s administration was caught flat-footed when the first cases began appearing in US states more than two months ago.
He said Washington has undertaken a “very substantial” ramp-up of its response, including the recent acquisition of some 800,000 vaccine doses from Denmark, since the start of the US outbreak in May, when monkeypox vaccine stockpiles were limited.
“The plan is to eliminate this virus from the United States. I think we can do that,” Jha said.
The World Health Organization on Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency, having affected nearly 17,000 people in 74 countries.
US lawmakers and mayors have complained of the Biden administration’s response, including House Democrat Adam Schiff who wrote the country’s health secretary this week to warn that “the federal government is falling short of the response that is needed.”
The center of the US outbreak is New York City, where most of the recorded cases are in men who have sex with men.
Jha acknowledged that the virus is spreading largely in the gay male community, but stressed that “there are other people who are at risk as well,” particularly those who are in close personal contact with people who are infected.