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White House Gives Monkeypox Response Update After Vaccine Push

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre next to Bob Fenton and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis

The White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre handed over the podium to the Biden-Harris administration's monkeypox coordinator Bob Fenton and deputy coordinator Dr. Demetre Daskalakis to give an update on the outbreak of MPV on Wednesday.

As the administration attempts to control the viral outbreak, the pair discussed recent successes at large-scale vaccination events and outlined steps moving forward.

"We have ample supply to vaccinate the highest risk individuals against monkeypox," Fenton said.

According to him, 70 percent of vaccines are administered intradermally, thus stretching vaccine supplies. "Which means that jurisdictions have effectively transitioned to an approach that has gotten not only more shots into arms, but also without sacrificing the safety and effectiveness of the Jynneos vaccine," Fenton said.

It is now the administration's goal to reach the rest of the target population by getting to them at trusted locations and events across the country. Health equity is a key component of the administration's response to the MPV outbreak, according to Fenton.

"This past weekend, we saw how successful that approach is," Fenton said. "Because of our direct allocations for Southern Decadence in New Orleans, Black Pride in Atlanta, and Oakland Pride, thousands of shots were administered during these events."

At Southern Decadence over Labor Day weekend, Fenton said over 3,000 vaccines were administered. At Atlanta's Black Pride event, nearly 4,000 people were vaccinated against MPV.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Black people account for almost 38 percent of MPV cases but represent only 12 percent of the US population; Hispanics or Latinx account for 29 percent of MPV cases but comprise 19 percent of the population.

"That means thousands of individuals are getting the protection against monkeypox that they may not have otherwise," Fenton said. "These events demonstrate our strategy is working."

The administration said it will offer additional vaccine doses at upcoming LGBTQ+ events.

A total of 820 doses will be sent to Idaho for Boise Pride on September 11 and 12, while 10,000 doses will be sent to California ahead of the Folsom Street Fair and Castro Street Fair in San Francisco, the end of September, and the beginning of October respectively.

"We will continue to pull every lever and meet people where they are to end this outbreak," Fenton said.

In Daskalakis's view, progress has been encouraging.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis in the Brady Press Briefing Room

Above: Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy White House MPV coordinator, speaks at Wednesday's White House Press Briefing.

According to Daskalakis, more than 460,000 vaccine doses have been administered in 35 jurisdictions (or just more than half of all jurisdictions which received vaccine doses).

"Keep in mind the population at highest risk is approximately 1.6 million people right now, and even with this partial view, we're seeing strong progress really getting shots into arms," Daskalakis explained.

He added that now that supply is less of a challenge, the administration needs to ensure that demand for the vaccine remains robust. The focus now, he said, must be "making sure that people know that effective and safe vaccine is available for those who could benefit."

He outlined that CDC data suggests that the hardest hit areas have declined week-over-week in MPV infection numbers. 

"New York, California, Texas, and Illinois are all seeing significant declines in growth rates over the last month," Daskalakis said.

He added that in July, it took eight days for cases to double nationwide, but that by mid-August, that rate had changed to every 25 days, which are "encouraging signs of progress." Specifically, Daskalakis praised the community of men who have sex with men within the LGBTQ+ community for their responsiveness.

He says that the LGBTQ+ community took information about MPV seriously, adjusted behaviors, and sought out testing, treatment, and vaccinations. But, Daskalakis warns that now is not the time to get complacent. 

"We must aggressively continue our work to get clear prevention guidance and vaccines out to individuals in communities where the virus continues to spread quickly," he said.

For more information about monkeypox, visit the CDC's website here

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