The CDC estimates that 1.7 million gay and bisexual men are at highest risk for monkeypox

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 1.7 million men who have sex with men currently face the greatest threat of monkeypox.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters on a call Thursday that gay and bisexual men who are HIV-positive or who take drugs, called PREPs, to reduce their risk of contracting HIV face the greatest risk for HIV infection. monkeypox health.

“That’s the population we’ve been most focused on in terms of vaccination,” Walensky said.

The United States has so far obtained 1.1 million doses of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The federal government has delivered more than 600,000 doses of the vaccine since May, according to HHS.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Jynneos in 2019 for adults 18 and older who are at high risk for smallpox or monkeypox. Jynneos, made by Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic, is the only monkeypox vaccine approved in the United States.

Walensky acknowledged last month that demand for the vaccine had exceeded supply, leading to long lines outside clinics in many cities. Sexual health clinics that serve the LGBTQ community said the vaccination campaign must be extended to anyone who thinks they are at risk of contracting monkeypox to bring the outbreak under control.

“What we really want to do is get to the point where we can vaccinate anyone who wants to,” said Dr. Ward Carpenter, co-director of health services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which administers the vaccines for the monkeypox, performs screenings and prescribes antiviral treatments.

“We’re still not there. We’re really trying to focus on the people who need it most, who are most at risk. But that’s not a successful public health strategy,” Carpenter said.

Monkeypox has spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact during sex among gay and bisexual men, according to public health officials. About 98% of patients who provided demographic information to clinics identified as men who have sex with men, according to the CDC. But public health officials have repeatedly stressed that anyone can catch the disease through physical contact with someone who has it or from contaminated materials such as linens and towels.

But as infections increase, the risk of the virus starting to spread more widely increases. In the United States, at least two children have caught monkeypox, likely through transmission within their families, according to the CDC.

“We’re trying to contain this disease in people who are currently suffering from it,” Carpenter said. “It’s a moment, an opportunity for us to do that because it’s in a relatively tight-knit community right now. If it gets out of that community, people have totally lost the ability to contain it,” he said. he declares.

The United States on Thursday confirmed more than 6,600 cases of monkeypox in 48 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, according to the CDC. The current number of infections is likely higher because people can only get tested for the virus after they develop the rash, which can take a week or more in some cases. Clinicians dab the rash to collect the sample for testing.

Monkeypox is rarely fatal and no deaths have been reported in the United States so far. But patients can suffer debilitating pain from the rash caused by the virus.