Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, claimed that the United States doesn’t have the federal infrastructure to deal with a public health emergency like monkeypox.
“Now if monkeypox gains a permanent foothold in the United States and becomes an endemic virus that joins our circulating repertoire of pathogens, it will be one of the worst public health failures in modern times not only because of the pain and peril of the disease but also because it was so avoidable,” Gottlieb wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. “Our lapses extend beyond political decision making to the agencies tasked with protecting us from these threats.”
Gottlieb argued that the United States did not test enough people for the virus in the early part of the outbreak, which is overwhelmingly spreading via homosexual men. Gottlieb also argued that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should have used commercial labs sooner. It wasn’t until June that the CDC expanded to using those labs, while the virus first popped up in May.
Data released by the CDC shows monkeypox has infected around 6,326 people in the United States. Wyoming and Montana are the only states that haven’t reported any cases so far.
Within the past week, health departments in New York and San Francisco have declared public health emergencies over the virus. The declarations allow the cities to utilize more funding to combat the virus. Additionally, the head of the World Health Organization recently declared monkeypox a global public health emergency.
“Its cultural instinct is to take a deliberative approach, debating each decision,” Gottlieb said of the CDC’s response. “With COVID, the virus gained ground quickly. With monkeypox, which spreads more slowly, typically through very close contact, the shortcomings of CDC’s cultural approach haven’t been as acute yet. But the shortfalls are the same.”
While the CDC should change course and refocus its core mission on containing outbreaks, Gottlieb said he believes it’s not likely to do so, largely because of the agency’s response to the COVID pandemic and the reaction of the general public to that response.
“After COVID, there’s a view among some that public health agencies used flawed analysis and miscalculated their advice,” Gottlieb wrote. “Securing a political consensus that the CDC needs to be further empowered to complete its mission — for example, invested with the authority to compel reporting from states — is politically unobtainable.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that 98 percent of monkeypox cases involve homosexual men. Symptoms of monkeypox infection include fever, rash, pox-like blisters and muscle pain.
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