The U.S. is currently in a race to have the necessary tools and medicines to stop the growing spread of monkeypox, and it may be an uphill battle, according to one vaccine expert.
Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, spoke with ABC News Live Tuesday about the latest developments in the spread of the virus. Hotez said he’s concerned about the trajectory of new cases that are being reported throughout the country and the world.
As of Wednesday, 6,326 monkeypox cases have been confirmed in all states except Montana and Wyoming, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No American has died from the virus, according to health officials. There have been 25,391 cases worldwide as of Wednesday, according to the CDC.
Hotez said the current monkeypox vaccine, JYNNEOS, is effective, but said the current supply may not be enough.
“It’s not dire yet, but the feeling is unless we work pretty quickly we could get there,” he told ABC News.
Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact, and although most known cases in the current outbreak are among people who identify as gay or bisexual, anyone can get it, Hotez said. As of Wednesday, five children have contracted the virus, the CDC said.
Hotez said the small supply of the vaccine, which was commissioned a decade ago, is the result of U.S. health officials letting a stockpile expire “inexplicably” and doing nothing to replenish it.
“When the outbreak began, we only had a few thousand doses and we’re playing catchup ever since,” Hotez said.
The Food and Drug Administration announced last week that it had inspected and approved the manufacturing of 786,000 more doses of JYNNEOS for distribution in the U.S. and that more than a million doses will be available in the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced FEMA administrator Robert Fenton would serve as the White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis would serve as the White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.
The pair will “will lead the Administration’s strategy and operations to combat the current monkeypox outbreak, including equitably increasing the availability of tests, vaccinations and treatments,” according to a statement from the White House.
Hotez said Biden’s appointees are qualified to lead the task and said one of the issues that they’re going to have to tackle is the vaccine supply. In addition, he said they will have to determine if there will be an increased call to use the antiviral drug tecovirimat, a.k.a. TPOXX, to treat patients while the country replenishes the vaccine supply.
“The problem is this: We don’t have the full armamentarium of tools to control it,” he said. “So we’re in a race trying to…accelerate the control tools, [so] that we have the diagnostics, the drugs and the vaccines versus that steep trajectory of cases.”