WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Wednesday it is optimistic about the decline in monkeypox cases and the surge in vaccinations against the infectious virus, despite worsening racial disparities in reported cases..
After promising to increase vaccine offerings at LGBTQ Pride festivals across the country in the coming weeks, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy coordinator of the White House National Response to Monkeypox, said more than 460,000 doses have been made.
However, there is no end in sight to the spread of the virus.
“Our goal is to control this outbreak in the US,” Daskalakis said. “In fact, we are seeing strong progress, we are getting gun shots. Now that supply is no longer an issue, we need to focus on maintaining demand.”
The US leads the world in infections, with 21,274 cases as of Wednesday. – men account for about 98% of cases, and men who said they had recently had sex with other men – about 93% of cases.
Monkeypox, which can cause rashes, fever, body aches and chills, is spread through close skin contact and prolonged exposure through droplets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that men or transgender people who have had multiple male sex partners consider getting vaccinated.
The number of infections is slowing after reaching a maximum of 870 cases in one day on August 22. But the decline revealed a deepening of racial differences.
While the number of cases in white men has dropped in recent weeks, the rate of infections among blacks is on the rise—nearly 38% in the last week of August, according to the latest available data.. In the early weeks of the monkeypox outbreak, blacks made up less than a quarter of reported cases.
Hispanics are also disproportionately infected, accounting for roughly a third of infections.
This trend means that public health messages and vaccines are not reaching these communities effectively, said Dr. Amesh Adalya, senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“This suggests that your interventions are in need of a major recalibration,” Adalya said. “It’s not as efficient as it should be.”
The Biden administration struggled with its response to the outbreak from the start when it was first identified in May.. A million doses of the vaccine were waiting for use in strategic national stockpiles, but the US only had 2,000 of them. Shipping and regulatory delays forced months of waiting for most of the remaining supplies as men queued for hours outside clinics in major cities hoping to get vaccinated.
White House officials said Wednesday they have recovered from some of those early mistakes, pointing to a recent decline in cases.
Daskalakis said the Biden administration has been working to get the vaccines directly into the hands of local LGBT-affiliated organizations to increase their use among blacks and Hispanics. He pointed to efforts at recent Pride celebrations. in Atlanta and New Orleans as evidence.
“Thousands of people are getting protection from monkeypox that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Daskalakis said. “These developments demonstrate that our strategy is working.”
In Louisville, Kentucky, Spencer Jenkins, 33, isn’t so sure.
Jenkins spent weeks this summer trying to get a vaccine, signing up for long waiting lists in cities hours away, including Washington and Chicago. He was lucky when his doctor in Louisville was one of the few in the city who received shots early last month.
“You would think that they would want to make a vaccine for everyone because it is a preventative,” he said. “All the work fell on queer people trying to get a vaccine.”