White House focuses on monkeypox research

Lab scientist at microscope
Lab scientist at microscope

gorodenkoff / iStock

Today the federal monkeypox response team said the White House is launching a new research initiative to advance biological understanding of monkeypox and to increase treatment options for the virus.

Chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, said the world still has many unknown questions about the virus, and the treatment (Tpoxx) and vaccine (Jynneos) currently being used were first developed for smallpox, not monkeypox.

Both the antiviral and the vaccine are being studied in trials supported by the National Institutes of Health that are assessing the efficacy of both against monkeypox.

"As we implement the interventions that we have, simultaneously, we still pursue some unanswered questions," Fauci said today during a press briefing. "[Including] addressing gaps in basic biology and immunology and immune correlates, understanding better transmission as well as the issue of animal reservoirs."

Fauci also said new research needs to focus on developing better tests, as current tests require swabs of active lesions and can miss patients who are pre-symptomatic.

11,000 vaccinated at pop-up events

During the briefing, response coordinator Bob Fenton said 11,000 Americans have been vaccinated with Jynneos in the past several weeks as part of a pilot vaccination pop-up program at large LGBTQA+ gatherings, including Southern Decadence in New Orleans and Charlotte Pride.

"Our work to expand knowledge about monkeypox and access to tools to fight the virus is working," Fenton said. "But we know there's a lot more to do, especially in Black and brown communities."

Overall Fenton said new cases have declined in the United States by 50% since the first week of August.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 144 more monkeypox cases yesterday, raising the US total to 22,774.

Of new cases reported last week, of which almost all were seen in men who have sex with men (MSM), Black men accounted for 38% cases, Latino men for 25%, and White men for 26%.

But Black men account for only 12% of those who've received a first dose of the monkeypox vaccine, and Latino men make up 21% of first-time vaccine recipients, the White House response team said.

Poll: More Americans aware of monkeypox

A new poll from the Annenberg Public Policy Center shows 63% of Americans know that MSM are at a higher risk of monkeypox infection compared to other groups, up from 33% in July. Similarly 61% of those polled know that a monkeypox vaccine exists, up from 34% in July.

And 84% of Americans said they understand the virus is spread via close contact, up from only 33% in July.

Three quarters of those surveyed said if exposed to the monkeypox virus, they would be likely to get vaccinated, but 27% say they are "not too likely" or "not at all likely" to get the vaccine.

Overall, roughly 20% of those polled said they worried about contracting the virus this month, a similar proportion to what was seen in July. Ninety-six percent of those polled said they do not know anyone who has contracted monkeypox.

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