The monkeypox virus has spread quickly in clusters across the United States – at certain music festivals, pool parties and bathhouses – and now public health officials in areas with a lot of infections want more vaccines made available to help control transmission, which appears to happen when people touch intimately, skin to skin.
“There are two different aspects of this response,” Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN.
“One is heavily concentrated, rather narrowly, on events that occur that can be the hotbeds for the spread,” Freeman said, including large dance parties and pool parties.
“Coming off of Pride Month, for example, our health departments in certain areas of the country really had their hands full because there were large events being held where people had many anonymous partners and there was no ability to even track how or when they were exposed,” Freeman said.
Second, “we’re certainly right now in a phase where we’re having to manage the existing quantity of vaccine and really focus on new cases in high-risk individuals,” she added. “So, not doing prevention efforts just quite yet – but focused on case counts.”
Those case counts are on the rise. The number of probable or confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States more than doubled within a single week, jumping from 866 to 1,814 between July 11 and 16.
The latest count from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than 2,000 probable or confirmed monkeypox cases have been reported nationwide.
Having more vaccine doses available to cities and counties across the country – especially those with rising cases – could help slow the spread of the virus, Freeman said.
Although monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, it spreads through skin-to-skin contact, and in the current outbreak, the virus has mostly been spreading among men who have sex with men.
The CDC estimates that more than 1.5 million men who have sex with men are eligible for the monkeypox vaccine in the United States.
As of Tuesday, more than 190,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine – a two-dose regimen manufactured by Bavarian Nordic for the prevention of monkeypox and smallpox – have been pulled from the Strategic National Stockpile to support local monkeypox response efforts, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
But some local health officials tell CNN that hasn’t been enough to meet demand.
‘The numbers are obviously getting larger’
For health officials in Dallas County, Texas, the summer started with a monkeypox investigation.
In early June, the state identified its first monkeypox case as part of the global outbreak of the rare disease. The patient was a Dallas County resident who had recently traveled to Mexico.
Separately, in the days that followed, two more monkeypox cases were identified in Dallas County residents who had recently traveled to Spain and Mexico.
Still, the number of cases in Dallas County remained at only about a handful – all of whom reported a history of international travel and identified themselves as men who have sex with men.
But about a month later, the county’s case count surged.