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Updated
the White House on a sunny day

Biden Names National Monkeypox Response Coordinator

FEMA official Robert Fenton and a deputy are charged with increasing access to tests, vaccines, and treatment.

Shawna Williams
Shawna Williams

Shawna joined The Scientist in 2017 and is now a senior editor and news director. She holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Colorado College and a graduate certificate and science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Aug 2, 2022

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Update (August 4): The Biden administration today declared monkeypox a public health emergency, multiple outlets report.

As several US states and cities declare states of emergency over the monkeypox outbreak, President Joe Biden’s administration today (August 2) named two officials currently at federal agencies to coordinate the response to rising case numbers. The pair “will coordinate and manage response efforts across the White House and all Federal departments and agencies,” according to a White House statement about the appointments. 

Robert Fenton, the new White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator, currently serves as one of the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s (FEMA’s) regional administrators. He has in the past served as acting administrator of FEMA, and he oversaw the agency’s mass COVID-19 vaccination operations early in the Biden administration, according to the White House announcement.  

Demetre Daskalakis, the new deputy coordinator, directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of HIV Prevention and is “Widely known as a national expert on health issues affecting the LGBGQIA+ communities,” according to the announcement. A medical doctor, he previously served in New York City’s health department in the Division of Disease Control. 

See “Monkeypox: What We Know (and What We Don’t)

“Bob Fenton and Dr. Daskalakis are proven, effective leaders that will lead a whole of government effort to implement President Biden’s comprehensive monkeypox response strategy with the urgency that this outbreak warrants,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony Fauci says in the White House statement. “From Bob’s work at FEMA leading COVID-19 mass vaccination efforts and getting vaccines to underserved communities to Demetre’s extensive experience and leadership on health equity and STD and HIV prevention, this team will allow the Biden Administration to further accelerate and strengthen its monkeypox response.”  

The appointments come as the administration faces criticisms regarding several aspects of its response to the monkeypox outbreak, including a shortage of existing vaccines that prevent the viral disease. The US leads the world in terms of confirmed cases, with more than 5,800 so far; California, New York, and Illinois have each declared states of emergency, along with New York City and San Francisco.  

President Biden has yet to declare a national state of emergency. But according to The New York Times, the administration has said that 737,000 more vaccines were shipped out to US states and cities on Monday, for a total of 1.1 million doses. There are two types of vaccines available in the US to prevent monkeypox, one of which requires one dose and the other two, according to the CDC.