With 202 monkeypox cases and not enough shots to go around, Chicago prioritizes vaccine
Until there is enough vaccine to meet the rising demand, Chicago has a plan to distribute the limited supply of monkeypox vaccine.
With 202 monkeypox cases already and a shortage of vaccine, Chicago public health officials on Friday sounded the alarm about the mounting crisis and urged those experiencing symptoms to get tested.
Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the monkeypox victims are between the ages of 22 and 66, with nearly all of the confirmed cases being men who have had sex with other men. The majority of cases have been on the North Side, where Chicago’s gay population is concentrated.
So far, 30% of the patients diagnosed with monkeypox at the Howard Brown Health Center have been Hispanic and nearly 20% have been African American, said President and CEO David Ernesto Munar.
“Historically neglected communities will bear the brunt of this, as they have other outbreaks,” Munar said.
“We are concerned that we will continue to see disparities. We also know that we’re only reaching minority people who are likely experiencing symptoms being affected by this outbreak, because some people who are getting symptoms don’t recognize them and don’t come forward.”
Chicago has administered 5,400 doses of the monkeypox vaccine with 15,000 additional doses expected to arrive as early as this weekend.
“I am concerned about the moment that we’re in. We simply do not have enough vaccine for all of those who need it,” Munar said.
“We’re doing everything we can to prioritize vaccinations for those most at risk. But the truth is, given the very limited national supply, there will be tens of thousands of individuals that are eligible and won’t gain access.”
Until there is enough vaccine to meet the rising demand, Chicago has established a pecking order for the limited supply of monkeypox vaccine. Arwady called it a “ring vaccination strategy.”
“Anybody who is a known contact of someone diagnosed with monkeypox gets vaccine. Two doses. ... Doesn’t matter what other risk factors if you’re a known contact. That’s our top priority,” the commissioner said.
The second priority is men who have sex with other men for money or have had multiple or anonymous partners in recent weeks, Arwady said. These men will get one dose of vaccine but will have to wait longer than the recommended four weeks for a second dose.
Arwady urged anyone who is experiencing symptoms to get tested immediately and to avoid intimate contact or sharing bedding and linens until they do.
Symptoms are described as swollen lymph nodes, fever and muscle aches, and a rash that, at first, looks like small bumps.
Even those who have none of those symptoms should make sure they get contact information from sexual partners, Arwady said.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) lost countless friends and associates to AIDS, a disease that was a death sentence in its early days.
Tunney, who is openly gay, pleaded with those most at risk to get tested and “use some common sense.”
“We’ve got a new strain of disease impacting our community, and we can beat this if we use some common sense,” he said. “Limit our partners. We’re not saying not to have sex. But be smart.”