(CNSNews.com) - Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday repeated something he's said before: "It's important that we all take monkeypox seriously, and it’s critical that we do all we can to keep this dangerous virus from spreading."
Becerra told a video conference that more than 60 jurisdictions have reported approximately 13,500 cases of monkeypox across the country," but given the demographics, most Americans are not at risk.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told the same news conference, "As of August 17th, over 39,000 cases have been detected globally in 94 countries. Here in the United States, there have been over 13,500 cases of monkeypox identified across 49 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
"Monkeypox case data reported to CDC show that 98 percent of cases are occurring in men," she said.
"Of the more than 6,000 cases for which we have data on race and ethnicity, nearly 35 percent of cases are occurring among those who are white, 33 percent of cases are occurring among those who are Hispanic, and nearly 28 percent are occurring among those who are black.
"The median age of cases is 35. And among cases with known recent sexual history and gender, 93 percent of cases were among men who reported recent sexual contact with other men."
HHS is launching a pilot program that will provide additional vaccine to state and local health departments whose jurisdictions host events "that draw a majority of people from the MSM community." MSM stands for "men having sex with men."
"Jurisdictions hosting these events can request to receive additional vaccine allocations based on the size and nature of the event and the ability to reach attendees who are at the highest risk of monkeypox, again, largely right now, men who are having sex with men," Walensky said.
'Temporarily limiting sexual partners'
According to Walensky, CDC will publish "a toolkit for health departments to assist with planning of these large events," which are intended to attract people most at risk for monkeypox.
"This toolkit, which has been developed based on the needs and feedback we’ve received from state and local health departments, includes ready-to-use resources to support local health department efforts when engaging with organizers of large events to provide and promote further monkeypox prevention strategies and key public health messages at large gatherings.
"These events are important opportunities for people to connect with their community and to enjoy themselves. And they’re also a chance to provide public health messages and resources to otherwise...hard-to-reach populations.
"That includes providing safer sex guidance that empowers people to make choices that can help them avoid monkeypox exposure, including temporarily limiting sexual partners, and messages about monkeypox symptoms and vaccines. They also provide education opportunities for communities about testing and treatment resources.
"Now, I want to emphasize that while we are offering the vaccine at these events to those at high risk, this is a two-dose vaccine series, and receiving the vaccine at these events will not provide protection at the event itself..."
According to a White House fact sheet, the "large events" envisioned by CDC must attract "gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men."
"The Administration has already started working with North Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana health departments to prepare for large LGBTQI+ gatherings in those states in the coming days and weeks," the fact sheet says.
"For example, the Administration worked with North Carolina to develop a plan to administer vaccines during the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade on August 20th and 21st. The Administration will support North Carolina with up to 2,000 additional doses by replenishing their stock of vaccine with the number of doses administered during these events. Those doses are in addition to the more than 18,000 doses North Carolina has already received through its existing allocations."