Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday he will not declare a public health emergency over the monkeypox outbreak despite more than 500 cases in the state. At the same time, DeSantis’ surgeon general Joe Ladapo reminded the public that the efficacy of the Jynneos vaccine now being given out as protection from monkeypox remains uncertain.
California, New York and Illinois have all declared a state of emergency over the rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak. The declaration often helps with the logistics and coordination between state and local departments working to respond to the emergency.
At a news briefing in Brevard County on Wednesday, DeSantis said he doesn’t believe such a move is necessary, nor does he think Floridians should be fearful of monkeypox.
“Any of the politicians trying to scare you about this, do not listen to their nonsense,” he said. “We’re not going to go back to Fauci in the ’80s trying to tell families they are going to catch AIDS by watching TV together. Anything we deal with from a public health perspective, we are not doing fear. We are going to do facts.”
DeSantis said the states declaring emergencies are going to “abuse those emergency powers to restrict your freedom.” He referenced the restrictive measures some states took during the early days of the COVID pandemic.
“You have to deal with this rationally and do not use it for political gain,” he said.
Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo also responded Wednesday to the idea of a public health emergency over monkeypox, noting that the Jynneos vaccine being given out has not had much evaluation.
Florida has 525 known cases — 372 of them in Miami-Dade and Broward counties — and Ladapo said he is certain there are many more unknown cases.
“Somewhere around 98%, maybe 99%, are men. Just a handful of cases are women,” he said. “All those cases have been transmitted by physical contact, basically sexual contact for the most part.
“There have been some reports of cases in kids that are connected with adults who have acquired the infection probably from sexual contact. In Florida, we have one case of a health provider who contracted it through a needle stick. There have been no fatalities.”
Ladapo said Florida has received about 24,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine from the national stockpile and distributed around 8,500.
A CDC report shows Florida has asked for and received 36,800 doses through July 27, even though the federal government has allocated 109,283 doses to Florida. Jynneos vaccines are a two-dose series given four weeks apart.
“You should know there’s very little data on this vaccine,” Ladapo said. “We need to learn more and we need to make rational decisions and not fear-based decisions. So far in Florida, there are zero fatalities. “
A small study done in Africa in the 1980s showed that the Jynneous vaccine was at least 85% effective against monkeypox. However, the CDC notes, “no data are available yet on the effectiveness of these vaccines in the current outbreak.”
Still, Ladapo said the Florida Department of Health is asking the federal government for more doses.
“We want to assure people who do want to take this are more easily able to gain access,” he said.
Florida exemplifies how the virus is spreading at a worrisome speed. The state confirmed its first case in May in Broward County and case numbers have multiplied ever since.
Frustration is building in the LGBTQ community over the government’s response to monkeypox, both on a federal and state level.
The Biden administration is considering whether to declare a public health emergency in the U.S.
This would help with the allocation of resources to state health officials who are battling the outbreak, and make it easier to get treatments for monkeypox to patients. As of Wednesday, 6,326 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the United States. Florida has the fourth-highest number of cases in the country.
The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency last month. More than 25,000 monkeypox cases have been reported in at least 78 countries, according to WHO data.
Reporting from The Orlando Sentinel.