White House Officials and HHS Secretary Praise Local Response to Monkeypox

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and two leaders of the White House monkeypox response team joined DC Department of Health officials on Thursday to visit the Recently opened DC Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., SE in Ward 8.

In a briefing for reporters, who were invited to join Becerra and White House officials on a tour of the clinic, DC and federal officials pointed to a sharp decline in new monkeypox cases in DC as a sign of successful federal and local government. association to dramatically increase the number of people at risk of contracting monkeypox who have been vaccinated.

“I welcome you all to our Ward 8 Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic,” said Dr. Sharon Lewis, Acting Director of the DC Department of Health, also known as DC Health.

“Keep in mind that DC Health was very active in kicking off in May” the city’s effort to address monkeypox, he said. “We started our planning and as soon as we heard about the first case in June, we had already established the vaccines and were ready to implement our plan.”

Dr. Anil Mangla, a state epidemiologist with the DC Department of Health, told the meeting that the number of DC monkeypox cases peaked during the week of July 17 and that new cases in the District have decreased since then by an average of more than 20 percent per year. week.

“I would call it our DC success story,” Mangla said. “So our cases peaked nine weeks ago, the week of July 17. If you look at national trends and statistics, the nation essentially peaked about six weeks ago, so we already had three weeks to go,” he said.

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Mangla noted that the clinic where HHS and White House officials visited Thursday at 3640 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., SE and the city’s other two monkeypox vaccination clinics are walk-in facilities where DC residents can get vaccinated without an appointment. The other two are located at 1900 I St., NW and 7530 Georgia Ave., NW

Becerra praised Mangla and his boss, Dr. Lewis, and their team of public health officials for aggressively reaching out to people at risk for monkeypox, including gay and bisexual men, to encourage them to get vaccinated and try to immediately to those who tested positive. monkeypox virus.

“So first let me say to Director Lewis, Dr. Mangla and your entire team, thank you for being affirmative in implementing the steps to stop monkeypox,” Becerra said. “And more importantly, go where the people are instead of waiting for people to come to you.”

He said DC’s efforts to address monkeypox were among efforts in other cities and states across the country where a joint federal-local partnership was taking place.

“We need strong alliances,” he said. “We need your help, because you know the many trusted voices in communities that have more than us,” he said. “We will provide the vaccine,” Becerra said, noting that the Biden administration, in partnership with several federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, has distributed more than a million doses of vaccine nationally.

Among the White House officials who spoke at the briefing and joined the visit to the District 8 Monkeypox Vaccination Clinic was Robert Fenton, whom President Biden appointed on August 2 as National Coordinator White House Monkeypox Response. Also speaking was Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, whom Biden named the White House deputy national monkeypox response coordinator.

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A statement released by the White House at the time Biden named the two men says Fenton has served as Regional Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 9 in the western part of the US. and was considered one of the most experienced emergency management leaders in the country.

The statement says that Daskalakis, a leading public health expert, is currently the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV Prevention.

“Widely known as a national expert on health issues affecting LGBTQIA+ communities, his clinical practice has focused on providing care for underserved LGBTQIA+ communities,” the White House statement said.

In his remarks at Thursday’s briefing, Daskalakis also praised DC health officials and the communities they have reached out to encourage behavior changes among groups most at risk for monkeypox.

“So the clear message is that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, transgender people, and other gender-diverse people who have sex with men are not only getting the vaccine and testing, but also getting it. what they can do in their daily lives to prevent infection,” he said. “I think it’s another testament to the work that he’s done and it’s another example of the great partnership between federal public health and local public health.”

The most recent data from the DC Department of Health on monkeypox cases in the city shows that, as of September 15, the city had a cumulative total of 488 cases, with 19 hospitalizations and no deaths. Of the total 488, 97.3 percent were men and 1.2 percent were women.

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Regarding the sexual orientation of those who make up the 488 cases, 48 ​​percent were listed as gay, 5.7 percent as bisexual, 3.9 percent as heterosexual/heterosexual, 1 percent as “other” and 41.4 percent as “Unknown”. The published data included an asterisk for the number of lesbian cases, which a footnote says could be four or fewer such cases.

At Thursday’s briefing, Blade asked Dr. Mangla, the DC Health epidemiologist, to explain why he thought the number of DC monkeypox cases in gay men and other men who have sex with men was initially listed by DC Health officials. 90 percent of all cases. But in recent weeks, the Blade noted, data shows the number of “gay” cases was around 50 percent or slightly less and a new category of “unknown” sexual orientation cases was in the range of 40 to 50 percent.

Mangla said he thought the discrepancy was due to a glitch in data collection during the early stage of the monkeypox outbreak in DC that has now been corrected. “It took us a few weeks to do that kind of adjustment and say that now we’re confident enough that the data is accurate for policy decisions and anything else,” he said.

He did not say whether he or DC Health know which demographic groups made up the 41.4 percent “Unknown” category in the most recently released data.