US declares public health emergency over monkeypox outbreak

The U.S. has declared a public health emergency for the outbreak of monkeypox after more than 6,600 Americans have been infected.

Critics had accused the Biden administration of taking too long to react to the spread of the virus.

This move allocates more resources to fight it.

The World Health Organization last week declared monkeypox a public health emergency.

Now, the U.S. is following suit, hoping to get more resources including vaccines, and perhaps, stretch existing vaccine doses further.

It was a new recognition from the White House about the severity of the global monkeypox outbreak.

"We're taking this very seriously. We're accelerating and strengthening our comprehensive response," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. 

The announcement is expected to free up money and other resources to fight the virus, which can cause fever, body aches, chills and a rash similar to chickenpox.

The White House has faced criticism for not acting more aggressively.

It’s allocated more than 1.1 million vaccine doses, but clinics across the country report there is more demand than supply.

It ordered millions more doses and expanded testing, but only after the virus had been in circulation for weeks.

"The Initial science led us to believe that those doses would be sufficient, however, infectious diseases are dynamic, as I said, and unpredictable," Jean-Pierre added.

READ MORE: Texas monkeypox cases rising, Dallas County has most in the state

There are now 209 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Dallas County.

The virus has primarily spread among men who have sex with other men, though anyone can become infected.

Dallas County and area clinics have been swamped with calls seeking the vaccine.

"You know, for getting the vaccine right now, you know, our phone bank, we're taking sort of creating a waiting list," Dallas County Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said. "And as we get more slots opened up and more availability, we're going down that list and trying to get people connected with those vaccine."

READ MORE: Monkeypox virus could become entrenched as new STD in the US

Federal officials also announced Thursday that regulators are looking at a way to stretch supplies of vaccine, by vaccinating five people, instead of one, with each vial. 

In the meantime, health officials are doing the best they can with the resources they have.

"We're still getting it out there. We're working with some other community partners. Some of them are going to be coming online in the next days and, you know, by next week sometime," Dr. Huang said.

The county initially could only give vaccine doses to someone who had been directly exposed to the monkeypox virus.

Now, the vaccine will be offered to any man who has sex with men who is 18 and older and sexually active over the last two weeks.