Ga. has most monkeypox cases in southeast, it’s ‘hunger games’ for the vaccine

Georgia monkeypox cases doubled to 96 on Thursday.
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 11:33 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - On Thursday, Georgia reached 96 confirmed cases of monkeypox, according to the CDC.

This is double what the state registered just a day prior on Wednesday.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, infectious disease specialist at the Emory University School of Medicine, attributed this spike to a surge in testing capability nationwide.

“It’s testing. We weren’t testing enough before. Now we have testing in many commercial labs. So there’s more testing happening. As more testing happens more cases are going to be diagnosed,” said del Rio in an interview with CBS46 on Thursday evening.

The wide majority of these cases are in large urban areas and amongst men who have sex with men.

Of the 48 known cases of monkeypox reported on Wednesday, all 48 were among those who identified as a man who has sex with men, according to Joshua O’Neal, Sexual Health Program Director at Fulton County Health Department.

He said that this information should help inform vaccine rollout, but stressed that anyone can contract this virus.

“So we have to just be really intentional on how we roll this out and who we’re prioritizing in that process,” said O’Neal on Thursday.

Hundreds rushed to sign up for a monkeypox vaccine on Thursday. Many were turned away after a registration mishap by the Fulton County Health Department.

O’Neal said someone mistakenly sent out a sign-up link on Wednesday evening. Therefore, when the county published its official registration link on Thursday – the spots were filled.

Some received email from the Fulton County Board of Health that read, “Unfortunately, we’re going to have to cancel your appointment for this Saturday due to a huge response, however, be on the lookout for further vaccine opportunities.”

O’Neal said the department has learned from the error and the initial 400 registered were deleted.

He said that the vaccines this week were prioritized to those especially vulnerable including those who are HIV+, communities of color, those struggling with substance abuse issues, and those who have had contact with someone who tested positive for monkeypox.

Kyle Graves said he was turned away when he tried to register for a vaccine just 9 minutes after the link from the Fulton County Health Department went public.

“We were all frustrated that we were trying to be preventative,” Graves said.

“I think it does affect the gay community because a lot of us are trying to make sure that we don’t repeat the HIV epidemic previously,” said Graves, who identifies as a gay man.

O’Neal said this hiccup highlights the demand in Atlanta to get a monkeypox vaccination.

“We are doing as much as we can with the doses that we get but ultimately, we are not getting the doses that we need. There are a lot of layers of accountability that need to be had especially with our government systems, so we need to continue to advocate for our communities and the health of our communities,” said O’Neal.

O’Neal said Fulton County has received notice that they will receive more monkeypox vaccine doses from the federal government next week.

However, O’Neal said he doesn’t know how many the County will be allocated yet.

Dr. Del Rio said that the U.S. could receive as many as 600,000 doses from Denmark as soon as next week. He said the FDA would still have to give clearance before those doses could be distributed nationwide.

“It’s basically the hunger games, right. I mean everyone is trying to get a dose, and there simply isn’t enough,” said Del Rio.

“The problem is there simply not enough vaccine out there. The demand for vaccine right now far outstrips supply in our country and globally frankly,” he added.