As monkeypox cases rise in the United States, CDC is expanding testing capacity and working with local health departments to increase access to the vaccine—for which New York City is already seeing massive demand.
US to expand testing in commercial labs
Currently, the United States has reported 201 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox across 25 states and the District of Columbia. However, health experts have said that cases are likely being undercounted due to testing bottlenecks.
To address this problem, the Biden administration last week announced that it authorized commercial laboratories to conduct monkeypox tests in hopes of drastically expanding the country's testing capacity. So far, CDC has shipped test kits to five commercial laboratory companies, including Quest Diagnostics, Sonic Healthcare, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, and Aegis Sciences.
"By dramatically expanding the testing locations throughout the country, we are making it possible for anyone who needs to be tested to do so," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
According to federal officials, the move will allow tens of thousands of tests to be conducted every week, up from the more than 8,000 tests a week from the national network of public labs alone. So far, the United States has increased its monkeypox testing from around 10 tests a day to 60 tests, but officials say that more testing should be done.
"That's a relative increase, but it's not close to where we want to be," said an administration official.
NYC broadens access to monkeypox vaccine
New York City on Thursday expanded access to the monkeypox vaccine for at-risk groups, including men who had sex with multiple or anonymous male partners in the last two weeks. According to health experts, the current outbreak has primarily affected men who have sex with men (MSM), whose highly interconnected sexual networks may allow the virus to spread more easily than it would in the general population.
New York City is the first American jurisdiction to offer the vaccine to individuals other than close contacts of infected patients, with similar decisions being made in the United Kingdom and Canada, the New York Times reports.
After the vaccine clinic at Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic opened on Thursday, demand was high, and hundreds of men arrived to be vaccinated. However, because of limited capacity, workers had to turn some people away and ask them to make an appointment for next week.
"The demand we're seeing today is further proof of how proactive the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community — and all New Yorkers — are when it comes to their health and seeking health care," said the city's Department of Health. "We are in talks with C.D.C. to obtain more doses and are looking into how we can boost our capacity citywide."
In addition, CDC said it is working with several state and local health departments to increase access to the monkeypox vaccines, particularly as the number of cases that cannot be tracked to a specific source continues to grow.
"We are aware that there are jurisdictions with a larger number of cases that are reporting high percentages of contacts that cannot be identified," said Brett Petersen from CDC. "And there are several considering, planning, and even implementing expanded vaccination programs at this time."
According to Petersen, CDC is working with its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and other partners to create a new national strategy for the monkeypox vaccine doses in the United States' stockpile. "There are some supply limitations that we're working to address and make sure that this medical countermeasure, in particular, is being provided and used in an optimal fashion, but also in an equitable fashion," he said.
Currently, around 36,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine, which is the preferred vaccine against monkeypox, are available for use in the U.S. stockpile, and an additional 150,000 doses are expected to be delivered in the next few weeks. (Fiore, MedPage Today, 6/24; Mandavilli, New York Times, 6/23; Scribner, Axios, 6/23; Nirappil et al., Washington Post, 6/22; Miller, Associated Press, 6/22; Gandhi, The Atlantic, 6/24; Otterman, New York Times, 6/23; NBC New York, 6/24; ABC7, 6/23; Vasile/Corrado, PIX11, 6/23; Tin, CBS News, 6/23)