Data Shows Racial Disparities in Monkeypox Vaccinations
New York City is finally making headway in containing this summer’s terrifying monkeypox outbreak, but the city is asking community groups to help close a vaccine gap for black and brown New Yorkers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black people received about 10% of monkeypox vaccine doses despite accounting for one-third of U.S. cases.
However, city and state health officials have recently acknowledged that vaccination progress has been uneven across demographic groups and that there needs to be a greater emphasis on equity when it comes to outreach and immunization. Data shows that the city is falling behind in immunizing black New Yorkers who are eligible for the monkeypox vaccine.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said at a City Council hearing on the monkeypox response on Wednesday, August 24th, “These new data show our efforts are making a difference, but just as importantly, we must double down to ensure the distribution gap and equity are addressed.”
Experts offered several explanations for the disparity. Some black men may distrust doctors and government public health efforts or be less willing to identify themselves as a person at higher risk of contracting the disease.
New York City is enlisting the help of community organizations to address the disparities. The city’s health department intends to award $5 million to community groups to produce targeted educational materials and conduct in-person outreach in bars and clubs.
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According to the city’s health department, black New Yorkers make up 31% of the vaccine-eligible population. However, according to the most recent data from the agency, they have only received 12% of the shots.
Meanwhile, white New Yorkers have gotten vaccinated at a rate comparable to their share of the eligible population. They account for 45% of those at risk and 46% of those who have received vaccinations.
Vaccinated people are also disproportionately young, accounting for 57% of the at-risk population and nearly 70% of the city’s vaccine recipients. Young people account for more than three-quarters of confirmed infections, despite constituting only a third of the city’s total population.
The data also suggests that residents of the Bronx and Staten Island are undervaccinated in comparison to their share of the at-risk population. The majority of cases have been found in Manhattan and Brooklyn, which may be due to the greater availability of monkeypox testing in those areas.
According to some experts, health officials must ensure that black men have greater access to vaccinations, testing, treatment, and other types of information and assistance.