HealthDay News — Monkeypox cases continue to fall in the United States, but public health officials now are concerned that the virus is making its way into communities of color.
New case numbers are down by nearly half since early August, White House monkeypox response coordinator Bob Fenton said in a Thursday media briefing. Fenton credited the decrease in new cases to vaccinations and education efforts around the nation, noting that a pilot program targeting large Pride events has delivered nearly 11,000 doses of vaccine.
As of Sept. 14, there have been nearly 23,000 cases of monkeypox identified in the United States, out of more than 59,600 cases detected globally in 103 countries, Rochelle Walensky, M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during the White House briefing. But while the growth in new cases has declined overall, “over the past several weeks we have also seen the racial and ethnic makeup of this outbreak evolve,” Walensky added.
Monkeypox cases are now “concentrating in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men of color,” causing case counts to actually rise in certain parts of the United States even as they fall nationwide, said Demetre Daskalakis, M.D., deputy coordinator of the White House monkeypox response.
“While monkeypox cases were first seen predominantly in non-Hispanic White men, in the last week, among the cases for which we have race and ethnicity data, non-Hispanic Black men represented 38 percent of cases. Latino or Hispanic men represented 25 percent of cases, and non-Hispanic White men represented 26 percent of cases,” Walensky said.
More than 540,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine have been administered so far, Walensky said, but White people have received the most doses. “Those who are White represent about 47 percent of people who received their first dose. Those who are Hispanic represent about 21 percent and those who are Black represent about 12 percent,” Walensky said, noting that those numbers are disproportionately lower than the race and ethnicity of new cases.
In response, the White House has opened up a new monkeypox vaccine equity pilot program, aimed at expanding vaccine access to communities of color in places being hit hardest by the virus, Daskalakis said.