But despite a growing supply of the Jynneos vaccine – and a new strategy that could expand the current supply fivefold – there is still no evidence that protection reaches those most at risk.
“When you think about the reality that there are a limited number of vaccines available, you really want to understand which groups to look for first,” says Dr. Stella Safo, an HIV primary care physician and founder of the advocacy group Just Equity for Health.
“That’s the fairness lens — that we don’t all experience the same diseases and different social determinants of health. So that’s why the treatments and the resources available must also target those who need them most.”
But there’s still no nationwide look at who received the vaccine, and the limited state-level data made available isn’t promising.
According to CDC data, more than half of monkey pox cases nationwide were among Hispanic (28%) or black people (26%), who make up only about a third of the general population.
And in Colorado, less than 15% of monkeypox vaccines have gone to black or Hispanic people, according to data the state health department shared with CNN last week.
“It’s no surprise that there are disparities in who gets vaccinated compared to who is diagnosed with monkeypox,” says Dr. Oni Blackstock, a primary care physician and HIV physician and founder of the Health Justice consulting firm. “So we can assume these are not isolated cases. These inequalities probably exist across the US and really need to be addressed, especially if we want to get this current outbreak under control.”
The public health response has been criticized during the monkey pox outbreak in the US, which has seen debt bounce between the federal government and states.
Xavier Becerra, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, said last month that the federal government is ready to respond but needs more help from local governments.
“We need the states and the local public health directors to provide us with data so that we know. Not only do we have an idea of how — what kind of volume, but also to know how to get the help we can provide.” concentrate,” he said. said. “We need more cooperation from the local population to get the information we need.”
The CDC is finalizing a data use agreement with states that would serve as a “reciprocal agreement” to direct monkeypox vaccination data from “different sources” to the agency. It is an addendum to the Covid-19 Data Use Agreement and would apply the same “requirements and provisions”. A draft of the data use agreement notes that its purpose is “to further the federal government’s efforts to establish a comprehensive picture of the administration of monkeypox vaccines at the national level.”
Last week, 54 of 61 jurisdictions had signed it.
But when CNN reached out to all 50 states for demographic details about who received the monkeypox vaccine, most didn’t respond at all. Of those who did, most said the data was not yet ready to be released, citing privacy concerns due to the small number of people vaccinated or a delay in processing the demographics.
The lack of data on who received the monkeypox vaccine has also attracted the attention of political leaders.
Last week, U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres sent letters to local leaders in his home state of New York, as well as to HHS and the CDC, calling for the public release of demographic data on monkeypox vaccinations.
“History teaches us that we cannot rely on the public health system to automatically meet the needs of the underprivileged: there must and must be transparency and accountability, and public reporting of demographics is critical to both,” he wrote. .
On Monday, eight DC councilors sent a letter to the local health department requesting more vaccine data to ensure equitable vaccination. They specifically ask for more information to show how the district is “applying lessons learned during COVID about communicating and distributing vaccines to the monkeypox situation.”
For Blackstock, monkeypox is a “repeat” of what happened with Covid-19 – but worse.
“Again, marginalized groups, vulnerable groups being affected, and very little sense of urgency to get resources to the communities that need them most,” she said. “Monkeypox is further stigmatized with gay, bisexual and other men having sex with men, and then the black and Latino crosses are the most affected.”
In a statement Monday touting that additional vaccines are available to states, Becerra stressed the need for coordination and cooperation.
“We will continue to work with our state partners to ensure an equitable and fair distribution of these vaccine doses to protect those most at risk and limit the spread of the virus,” he said.
Experts say that in general – but especially with the sensitive nature of the current monkeypox outbreak – it is critical to work closely with the communities most affected.
The Washington, DC Department of Health told CNN that there has been an “increase in high-risk individuals receiving the vaccine, especially in the black community, in decreasing the specificity of the data collected.”
That reflects a historic distrust of health care, but also a “contemporary mistrust” that has been exacerbated in the wake of the Supreme Court’s quashing of Roe v. Wade, Safo said.
“People don’t trust that this collected data will not be used in a way that negatively impacts them. But from a public health perspective, we need this data to understand how to deploy resources,” she says. said.
“It goes back to the reality that we need people from these communities to sit at the design table when we think about how we collect data, how we roll out vaccines, how we talk about these conditions.”