The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that very few people in the United States have received a full series of monkeypox vaccinations.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the large majority of Americans who received a first dose of the vaccine have yet to get their second dose, despite being eligible.
She told a White House briefing Friday that nearly 97% of the inoculations administered so far have been first doses.
Walensky said that while the vaccine was initially hard to get, supplies have now increased.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed for the vaccine to be injected in smaller doses to help stretch supplies.
The Biden administration says it has shipped enough vaccines to jurisdictions around the United States for at least 1.6 million doses.
CDC data show that about 10% of monkeypox vaccine doses have been given to Black people despite the fact that they account for one-third of U.S. cases.
The rate was compiled from 17 U.S. states and two cities.
Walensky said the CDC has taken measures to make the vaccine more accessible to Blacks and other minorities. She said vaccines and educational materials will be available at two upcoming events — Atlanta's Black Pride festival and New Orleans’ Southern Decadence.
Walensky said the agency is starting to roll out such pilot projects and that "they are working."
Most cases of monkeypox in the United States have occurred in gay men, but health officials have stressed that anyone can catch the virus.
More than 16,000 people have been infected with the virus in the United States, more than in any other country.
Walensky noted that the spread of the virus is falling in several major U.S. cities.
"We're watching this with cautious optimism, and really hopeful that many of our harm-reduction messages and our vaccines are getting out there and working," she said.
Across the United States, cases of monkeypox are still increasing. However, officials say the pace of the outbreak appears to be slowing.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization said global cases of monkeypox dropped 21% in the past week.
The WHO said cases appeared to be slowing in Europe but warned that infections in the Americas were on "a continuing steep rise."
"In Latin America in particular, insufficient awareness or public health measures are combining with a lack of access to vaccines to fan the flames of the outbreak," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing.
Monkeypox has been endemic in parts of Africa for decades, but since May, cases have been reported around the world.
The virus is typically spread by skin-to-skin contact with an infected person's lesions. It can also be spread through contact with an infected person's clothing or sheets.
Source: Voice of America