The decision, made by the Department of Health and Human Services, comes after growing pressure from health officials and the World Health Organization declaring the outbreaks a world health emergency over a week ago.
“We are prepared to take our response to the next level,” Health Secretary Xavier Becerra told reporters on Thursday, as quoted by The New York Times. “And I ask each American to take monkeypox seriously.”
With the official declaration, federal agencies can now access emergency funding and mobilize their resources and manpower to distribute monkeypox vaccines like JYNNEOS, The New York Times reports.
That’s a crucial boost, in light of shortages of the vaccine and hiccups in its distribution.
Distributing vaccines isn’t the only issue — access to monkeypox testing has also proven to be a major problem so far. At one point, New York City, the epicenter of monkeypox in the US, tested as little as ten people per day.
As of now, there are over 6,600 reported cases of monkeypox in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly 26,000 worldwide.
New York state, which declared a state of emergency just days earlier, currently has the highest amount of cases in the US at nearly 1,700.
Monkeypox spreads through close person-to-person contact and not just through sex. Anyone that isn’t protected against the disease is at risk of infection.
It usually causes blister-like lesions and rashes throughout the body, especially near the genitals. Other symptoms include fever, exhaustion, muscle aches, and more, according to the CDC.
Fortunately, no deaths have been reported so far, as the disease is rarely fatal, the CDC says.
More on monkeypox: WHO Declares World Health Emergency Over Monkeypox