Widespread tests & vax crucial to contain monkeypox outbreak: White House

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Washington, July 25 (IANS) Widespread availability of tests, vaccines are essential to tackle monkeypox outbreak, said Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

On CBS News talk show “Face the Nation”, Jha said that the aim is to “eliminate this virus from the US” and that the country is ready with necessary tools.

“Right now we have over 2,000 cases, but we have ramped up vaccinations, ramped up treatments, ramped up testing, and we’re going to continue to look at all sorts of policy options,” he was quoted as saying.

“Right now, we think we can get our arms around this thing, but obviously, if we need further tools, we will invoke them as we need them.”

Jha noted ensuring widespread availability of testing for monkeypox is crucial to containing the disease, and said the US now has the capacity for 80,000 tests per week. There are also 300,000 vaccine doses, he added.

“The plan here is very straightforward. The plan is to eliminate this virus from the US,” Jha said.

“I think we can do that. We’ve got the vaccines, and we’ve got the diagnostic tests. And you’re gonna just see more and more action from the administration. What I will remind you is that the first case was about two months ago. There has been a very substantial ramping up of response in the last two months with more coming with a very specific goal, which is to eliminate the virus from the United States.”

His comments at a time the US has been criticised by many scientists and patients who slammed the health officials for their slow response to the virus.

Earlier this month, Eric Feigl-Ding, a top US epidemiologist and health economist, lamented that the response to monkeypox — both in terms of testing and vaccine roll out — is “vastly inadequate” in many countries like the US. These problems have led the monkeypox virus to spread unchecked, he noted.

“Testing had been slow — and with it — slow mitigations and vaccination rollout,” Feigl-Ding wrote on Twitter.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, the epidemiologist along with other experts wrote an open letter calling for an early global response to monkeypox infections to avoid echoing the mistakes of the Covid.

Similarly, Dr. Anne Rimoin, Professor of epidemiology at University California Los Angeles, said the monkeypox outbreak was avoidable had the western world paid attention to the disease occurring in Africa for decades.

The lack of readily available tests and vaccines is behind the current outbreak, Rimoin was quoted as saying to NPR.com.

Further, Rimon, who has spent the last 20 years in the Democratic Republic of Congo working on monkeypox, said while the recent outbreak started in May, till mid July there was no “aggressive public health response”.

American actor Matt Ford, who became the first person ever with monkeypox infection to go public, also blasted the US government for its slow response to the virus.

“The government needs to pick up the pace on vaccines and testing. The slow response is pretty unacceptable,” Ford said on Twitter.

–IANS

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