The US monkeypox outbreak is slowing as vaccines turn into extra accessible, well being officers say
The monkeypox outbreak in the US is slowing as vaccines become more available and there is broader public awareness of what steps individuals can take to lower their risk of infection, White House health officials said.
Demetre Daskalakis, deputy chief of the White House monkeypox response team, said it took 25 days for cases to double in August, compared with eight days in July. California, New York, Illinois and Texas have all seen significant declines in new cases over the past month, Daskalakis said.
“The positive trends we’re seeing in this data also speak to the actions taken by individuals across the country to protect themselves against the virus, including changing their behavior and seeking testing and vaccines,” Daskalakis said.
The US is still battling the world’s largest monkeypox outbreak, with nearly 21,000 cases reported in all 50 states, Washington DC and Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Monkeypox is primarily spread through sex among gay and bisexual men, although anyone can catch the virus through close physical contact with an infected person or through contaminated materials such as towels and bed sheets. The disease is rarely fatal but causes painful lesions that resemble pimples or blisters.
The Biden administration was criticized over the summer for not moving quickly enough to increase vaccine supplies to meet the huge demand for the shots. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency last month, and the Food and Drug Administration approved a different method of administering the vaccines, allowing providers to extract more doses from each vaccine vial.
Jynneos vaccine, manufactured by Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic, is the only approved monkeypox vaccine in the United States. It is given in two doses 28 days apart, with the peak immune response occurring two weeks after the second dose.
The CDC does not yet have any real-world efficacy data on the Jynneos vaccine, although public health officials expect it to offer protection against monkeypox.
The supply of vaccines has expanded significantly since the beginning of August. The US has administered more than 460,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine to date, according to 35-state data provided to the CDC. About 1.6 million gay and bisexual men are at highest risk from monkeypox and have been the focus of vaccination efforts.
Black and Hispanic communities have been particularly hard hit by the virus. According to CDC data, nearly 38% of patients are Black, 29% Hispanic, and 27% White. The total population of the United States is 12% Black, 19% Hispanic, and 61% White, according to the 2020 Census data.
Daskalakis said the CDC and the White House have been working with organizations in black and brown communities to increase vaccine access. Vaccinations were offered on-site at Atlanta Black Pride over Labor Day weekend, with 4,000 doses administered, according to Robert Fenton, head of the White House monkeypox response team.
The US offers on-site immunizations at Pride and other high-attendance events for gay and bisexual men to make immunizations more readily available. More than 3,000 doses were administered at Southern Decadence in New Orleans, according to Fenton. The US is providing 820 cans for Boise Pride and 10,000 cans for California ahead of the Folsom Street Fair and Castro Street Fair, Fenton said.
Daskalakis said federal health officials are also working with colleges and universities when the school comes back into session to brief them on the resources and tools available to deal with monkeypox should there be any infection on campus, although the risk is low .
“The risk at universities is extremely low,” said Daskalakis. “Given the way this virus spreads in the population, the risk in these settings is realistically low. Awareness is more important than fear,” he said.
People with monkeypox should stay home until the rash has healed and a new layer of skin has formed, stay away from other people, and not share objects or materials with other people, according to CDC guidelines.
People with a new or unexplained rash should avoid sex and social gatherings, especially those involving close skin contact, according to the CDC. People can also reduce their risk of infection by temporarily limiting their sex partners until two weeks after receiving the second dose of the monkeypox vaccine.