Monkeypox Cases Drop Despite Vaccination Challenges

Cases in the ongoing monkeypox outbreak appear to be falling as public health officials continue the push to vaccinate the vulnerable. According to data from the CDC, the 7-day national average of new cases was only 60 per day as of October 12, down from a peak of 461 in early August.  

Although monkeypox is not strictly a sexually transmitted disease, infection in the US is being driven by sexual contact. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzing over 500 cases in 16 countries found that sexual contact was responsible for transmission in 95% of those cases. There is still debate among experts as to whether infection can be spread through seminal or vaginal fluids.

The CDC stated in a late August press conference that they are attempting to vaccinate approximately 1.6 million people, those most vulnerable to the virus. CDC data indicates that 906,325 doses of the monkeypox vaccine have been administered (the monkeypox vaccine is a two-dose series).

Gay, bisexual, and queer men make up the majority of monkeypox cases because of how the virus has circulated among sexual networks. Healthcare officials cited outreach to the queer community and fighting stigma as key concerns in addressing the outbreak. Over the summer the government sent vaccine doses to large queer gatherings. Data also indicates discrepancies in vaccine distribution. While Black and Latino men make up about 64% of new infections, they have received only about 32% of doses administered. In an attempt to address this, the White House launched a “Vaccine Equity Pilot Program,” which will send extra doses of the vaccine to communities and healthcare providers with proposals to reach out to vulnerable populations. 

Doctor Demetre Daskalakis, deputy coordinator of the White House’s Monkeypox Response Team, underscored the need for vigilance despite promising numbers. At a White House Press Conference in September, Daskalakis remarked, “We cannot be complacent, and we must aggressively continue our work to get clear prevention guidance and vaccines out to individuals in communities where the virus continues to spread quickly and those places and individuals that may face barriers in accessing testing, treatments, and vaccinations.” 

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