The United States declared an emergency respond to the fast-spreading outbreak of monkeypox on August 3.    

The Voice of America (VOA) said on August 4 that the emergency declaration came after a similar announcement was made nearly two weeks ago by the World Health Organization (WHO).  The U.S. states of California, Illinois and New York had reportedly also declared public health emergencies because of the spread of the virus, which causes a painful but rarely fatal disease.

Monkeypox is a DNA virus and not prone to mutate as do RNA viruses, such as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, meaning it is much more likely to be stable, with the likelihood of fewer variants. Monkeypox is spread through physical contact, not through the air.

Monkeypox, first identified in monkeys in 1958, however, is in the same family of viruses as the often-deadly smallpox.  Monkeypox symptoms, including fever and swollen lymph nodes, can last for weeks, causing often painful lesions and rashes.

Since mid-May, more than 6,600 cases of monkeypox have reportedly been confirmed in the United States, although health officials believe the number is significantly under-reported.  There have been a small number of recent cases, as well, attributed to community spread.

Only one vaccine for monkeypox, known by its trade name Jynneos, is approved for use in the United States and it is in limited supply.  Only enough doses have been received to fully cover about 600,000 people, while federal officials say about 1.6 million to 1.7 million Americans are at a high risk of contracting the disease.

The Biden administration is being criticized as acting too slowly to secure the vaccine doses. Similar complaints were aired about the early response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden, on the campaign trail in 2020 to defeat Donald Trump in the presidential election, repeatedly pilloried the Republican incumbent for a delayed and bungled reaction to the spread of COVID-19.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on August 4 that the Biden administration, within two days of the first confirmed case of monkeypox in the country, “began deploying vaccine to states and jurisdictions and pre-positioning tens of thousands of additional doses in the Strategic National Stockpile.”

Based on monkeypox outbreaks in the recent past, officials believed those doses would be sufficient to meet the needs of the country.  

The U.S. government reportedly owned a huge stockpile of monkeypox vaccine —equivalent to 16.5 million doses — produced and stored by Bavarian Nordic in Denmark.  But by the time the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requested on June 10 that a half million doses be put into vials, other countries had submitted their orders, sending the United States to the bottom of the waiting list.  There were two additional requests from Washington in July, totaling 5 million doses, but HHS was told that volume could not be delivered until early next year.