As monkeypox cases surge across the U.S., pressure is mounting on the White House and the CDC to distribute more vaccines. But in many cities, there is still a major shortage.
"States don't really know when vaccines are coming; it’s kind of a day-to-day thing," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious-disease expert at University of California San Francisco.
The Biden administration is now dividing up what were previously full doses in order to stretch the limited stockpile. Health care providers are also being encouraged to inject the vaccine just below the skin to stretch doses up to five times.
"Seeing a lot of people with sickness and suffering really makes me feel sad because, again, it's something we have the tools to do, and it really shows us the importance of a system and a well-oiled machine," Dr. Chin-Hong said.
It's a distribution hurdle: With the COVID vaccines, the CDC’s detailed "VTrckS" system allows states to track and reorder vaccine supplies, but with monkeypox, the government is repurposing a shot originally designed for smallpox.
According to CDC data, the U.S. has the most infections of any country — nearly 14,000. About 98% of those cases are men, and about 93% were men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.
Officials announced an extra 50,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine are being set aside and shipped to various cities ahead of upcoming pride celebrations.
"This is a two-dose vaccine series, and receiving the vaccine at these events will not provide protection at the event itself," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director. "We recognize that there are going to be some people who have traveled to large scale events and that they're going to have to receive dose one of their vaccine at the event, and then they won't necessarily receive dose two at their local jurisdiction, and we anticipate that.”
Health officials say the number of doses sent to each location will be based on event size and the number of health workers available to administer shots, as well as the number of attendees considered “high risk” for catching or spreading the disease.
For those living in major cities and are able to travel, one health expert says taking a drive 20 or 30 minutes outside the city may create more luck finding doses in less crowded areas.
In the meantime, the White House says it will continue to stretch a limited supply.