By Jefferey Jaxen

For those who lived through the opening rounds of the COVID response, there is a familiar feeling as states and cities begin to line up to declare state of emergencies for the monkeypox outbreaks. 

On Monday, both California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared states of emergency in their states. On the same day, New York Mayor Eric Adams followed suit in “a move that lets him suspend local laws and enact new rulesto better manage the city’s outbreak” reports Politico. 

Cities may also be acting in alignment with some states as the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, Nathan Fletcher, chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, was quick to signal that “we are likely to align with the state in the coming days by making our own declaration.”

It has become common knowledge that the monkeypox virus is nothing like the coronavirus – both in transmissibility and mutation rate. The states of emergency declarations allow individual states to coordinate the distribution vaccines, prevention efforts and to raise awareness about the issue while working to align with whatever the federal response looks like.

To date, no emergency federal response has been declared yet the Biden Administration has picked Robert Fenton, a regional administrator for FEMA to serve as the White House monkeypox coordinator. Meanwhile, the director of the Division of H.I.V. Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, will serve as his deputy.

With a primary focus on vaccinations, the nation’s eyes now look to Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos vaccine for answers. The U.S. government has invested a whopping $1B over the last decade to bolster a stockpile of Jynneos vaccine for this exact scenario, so what do we know about its effectiveness? 

 In an August 1 article by MedpageToday, the title reads How Well Does the Monkeypox Vax Work? No One Knows for Sure. 

Media outlets are throwing around the number of 85% effectiveness. Yet as MedpageToday states, that number “is based entirely on a small study done in Africa in the 1980s that has major limitations. One data expert calls its findings “pretty weak.” Other studies have only been conducted in animals.”

There are two inconvenient facts emerging during these declared emergencies concerning America’s highly-prized, billion dollar vaccine investment.

First, a major concern was voiced at the WHO meeting last week by Unit Head of Global Infectious Hazards Preparedness at the WHO Tim Nguyen, when he stated: 

“I would like to underline one thing that is very important to WHO. We do have uncertainties around the effectiveness of these vaccines because they haven’t been used in this context and this scale before. And therefore, we are working with our member states, that when these vaccines are being delivered, that they are delivered in the context of clinical trial studies and prospectively collecting this data to increase our understanding on the effectiveness of these vaccines.” 

And second, in concurrence with Nguyen’s warning to the WHO, the CDC similarly states: “We do not know if JYNNEOS will fully protect against monkeypox virus infection in this outbreak. Individuals wanting to minimize their risk of infection should take additional preventive measures and self-isolate as soon as they develop monkeypox symptoms, such as a rash.”

While states step up prevention efforts and raise awareness to slow the spread of monkeypox, it seems like the Achilles’ heel, much like during the coronavirus outbreak, is the vaccine’s questionable effectiveness at stopping both transmission and infection.

The question on many people’s minds moving forward, after two years of societally-damaging lockdown restrictions imposed by public health officials and cheered on by experts in the media, is will they place restrictions on all of society in an attempt to slow the spread of monkeypox? 

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