Americans struggle to get monkeypox vaccine as virus spreads

NewsNation PRIME

(NewsNation) — As monkeypox continues to spread across the United States, health officials warn that a lack of vaccines and testing capability may be exacerbating the outbreak.

As New Yorker Josh Hurt put it, “it’s like the Hunger Games” trying to get a vaccine. “It was a hassle,” he told NewsNation affiliate WPIX. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. monkeypox cases have been reported in New York, where residents wait in line for hours at clinics across the city to receive a vaccine.

As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,972 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S., with more than 500 in New York. Globally, the number of confirmed cases as of Monday was 13,340 in 69 countries.

Dr. Susan Bleasdale, chief quality officer for the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, said that while the long lines show the message is getting out about monkeypox, it’s also indicative of a supply problem.

“We do need to get more vaccine,” Bleasdale said Monday on “NewsNation Prime.”

Because monkeypox is especially prevalent among certain social groups, Bleasdale said it will be imperative to continue providing resources to the most high-risk populace. But similar to COVID-19, ramping up production of the vaccine will take some time.

“Partnering with health systems and departments of public health will help to get more people what they need,” Bleasdale said. “There are some high-risk areas where we need to focus much of the vaccine availability.”

Monkeypox is spread from close contact, and one of the most commons symptoms is a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. A rare disease not typically seen outside of some countries in Africa, monkeypox has been spreading globally since the beginning of this year.

The CDC announced Monday that Sonic Healthcare will begin monkeypox testing, joining four other labs across the U.S. 

“The ability of commercial laboratories to test for monkeypox is an important pillar in our comprehensive strategy to combat this disease,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.  “This will not only increase testing capacity but also make it more convenient for providers and patients to access tests by using existing provider-to-laboratory networks.”

Sonic will offer testing at one of its laboratories in Austin, Texas, and can accept specimens through its network of clinical laboratories located across the United States. The Sonic laboratory is one of five across the country that are now conducting monkeypox tests, and the CDC said the laboratories have the capacity to conduct up to 80,000 tests weekly.

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