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Biden says quarantines for monkeypox aren’t needed in U.S.

President Biden and Japan's prime minister, Fumio Kishida, after a meeting in Tokyo on May 23. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
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TOKYO — President Biden said Monday that he did not believe a quarantine to prevent the spread of monkeypox in the United States would be necessary, saying there are sufficient vaccine doses available to combat any serious flare-up of the disease.

Belgium became the first country to impose a quarantine on its residents because of monkeypox, requiring those infected to isolate for 21 days.

But in the United States, “I just don’t think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with covid-19, and the smallpox vaccine works for it,” Biden said at a news conference Monday after meeting with Kishida Fumio, the Japanese prime minister, at Akasaka Palace.

What is monkeypox, the rare virus now confirmed in the U.S. and Europe?

The president said he believes the United States has a sufficient supply of smallpox vaccine to “deal with the likelihood of the problem.”

The World Health Organization has identified monkeypox cases in at least a dozen countries in which the illness is not usually endemic. It is a disease that is generally found in Central and West Africa, although recently, several European nations — as well as the United States, Australia and Canada — have reported cases.

As monkeypox cases rise in Europe and other parts of the globe, health authorities are expressing concern about the unusual uptick. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard, Meryl Kornfield/The Washington Post)

On Sunday, Biden told reporters traveling with him during his five-day Asia tour that monkeypox is a “concern in that if it were to spread, it would be consequential.” Administration officials have said Biden has been briefed on the disease.

Though the world is still grappling to control the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 1 million people in the United States alone, experts have noted that covid-19 and monkeypox have clear differences. For instance, monkeypox does not spread easily between humans, unlike the highly contagious coronavirus.

Meanwhile, studies suggest smallpox vaccine is at least 85 percent effective against monkeypox, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says the United States has licensed two vaccines to prevent smallpox, with one authorized specifically for monkeypox.