Health and Wellness

Monkeypox vaccine remains hard to get in cities where outbreak is growing

A medical professional prepares to give a vaccine shot to a younger patient.
Photo: Shutterstock

As cases of monkeypox continue to rise in the U.S., vaccines are becoming hard to get for many people who were greenlit to get them.

Late last month, the Biden administration announced their plan to distribute about a quarter of a million doses over the next several weeks and 1.6 million by the end of the year to help supply the increasing number of people recommended to get the vaccine. The CDC now recommends that men who have had sex with multiple men in the last fourteen days in cities where cases of monkeypox have been confirmed get vaccinated against the virus, as well as people who have had sexual contact with someone with a confirmed case of the disease.

Related: Donald Trump Jr. claims monkeypox is a hoax to make money

But in cities with high rates of infection, the limited number of vaccination appointments have been snatched up almost as quickly as they have been announced.

In June, New York City became the first major U.S. city to begin offering the two-dose Jynneos vaccine to men who have sex with men and other vulnerable populations. But vaccine appointments were only available at one clinic in the city, and those appointments were all booked the same day they were announced.

This week, New York began offering another round of vaccination appointments, but the rollout was initially plagued by technical difficulties that made bookings available prematurely. When appointments were officially announced later in the day, they were all booked within 15 minutes.

“In the initial phase of this plan, New York City has been allocated 6,000 doses, slightly more than 10% of the 56,000 total doses made available nationally in the initial phase (NYC accounts for about 20% of confirmed cases in the U.S. as of July 6),” ACT UP wrote in an Instagram post parsing the city’s vaccine shortage. “The Health Department doesn’t expect to receive additional allocation until at least mid-to-late July, due to limited federal supply at this time.”

 

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Similarly, Washington, D.C. ran through its supply of the vaccine within hours of first making appointments available on June 27. In California, which now has the most cases in the U.S., the situation is no better. Lines for pop-up vaccine clinics have stretched for blocks in San Francisco.

Dr. Tyler Termeer, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, says the organization has received fewer than 100 doses, a fraction of the estimated 6,000 needed to respond to the city’s outbreak. He says the foundation’s clinic currently has a waitlist of over 400 people who are eligible to receive the vaccine. Termeer says he fears that “the lack of urgency would be very different if we were responding to a different community.”

In Los Angeles, health officials say their efforts have been severely limited by a vaccine shortage, according to the LA Times. L.A. County public health director said Barbara Ferrer said that until recently the city had only 1,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine, and that initial supply has nearly been exhausted.

“We’re doing everything we can to have an equitable distribution of what is, at the moment, a scarce supply of this vaccine.” Ferrer said that the 6,000 doses L.A. received recently are not nearly enough to meet demand, and she expects vaccine supplies to be scarce at least through August.

In Chicago, where there have been 73 reported cases as of July 4, pop-up vaccination sites have administered hundreds of doses. But doctors and specialists remain frustrated by the response to the outbreak.

“There are more people, I would say, in Chicago who might want an MPV vaccine than we have the capacity to give them right now,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady told the Hyde Park Herald this week. And infectious diseases specialist Dr. Anu Hazra called the FDA’s potential timeline for getting more Jynneos doses to Americans a “worst-case scenario.”

Meanwhile, additional cities will begin their vaccine rollouts. Atlanta will begin making vaccine appointments available to the gay community this weekend.

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