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Data from Philadelphia Health Department shows racial disparities in monkeypox vaccine distribution

There are racial disparities in Philadelphia about who's getting monkeypox vaccine
There are racial disparities in Philadelphia about who's getting monkeypox vaccine 02:18

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- There are racial disparities in Philadelphia with who's getting the monkeypox vaccine. New numbers from the health department Thursday, for the first time, show striking inequities.  

Monkeypox cases in Philadelphia continue to go up and there are still not enough vaccines. Now, there's an issue with who's getting it. 

African Americans in Philadelphia have more cases of monkeypox, but get fewer vaccines, according to a new monkeypox data dashboard from the health department. 

"It's a situation where education is key," Dr. Delana Wardlaw,  a family physician in North Philadelphia, said. 

"Systemic racism, implicit bias, allows for things to continue to happen," she added.

The newly released numbers show the White population in Philadelphia has 27% of the monkeypox cases, but they get 57% of the vaccine.

Black and African American residents have 55% of the cases, but only receive 23% of the vaccine.

"I'm not surprised… again, being a part of the African American community, I am aware of why people have this and trepidation and reservations," Dr. Wardlaw said.

"We know that the numbers have been higher in men who have sex with men and we have to be very careful to avoid that stigmatism because, again, that will cause people to have reservations," she added.

About 90% of Philadelphia's 203 monkeypox cases are in men in their 30s. It's spreading mainly among men who have sex with men, but anyone can get the virus through close contact.

"We are seeing a larger number of cases in communities of color, here in Philadelphia," Dusty Latimer, a physician's assistant with the Mazzoni Center, said.

The center is Philadelphia's largest LGBTQ health agency.

"For the city, they are working on expanding the diversity in their rollout and kind of partnering with different organizations that kind of focus on the communities of color," Latimer said. 

"From early data on the vaccination campaign, we are seeing that despite multiple strategies in place to increase equity, disparities in vaccination remain," Philly Health Commissioner Dr. Cherly Bettigole said in a release. "It appears from our experience with COVID-19 vaccination that we will need to set up partnership vaccine clinics in diverse neighborhoods in order to better reach Black high-risk Philadelphians. That will take funding, so we are advocating to federal agencies to fund this effort and, given the urgency, working to identify internal funds that we can pull temporarily to enable us to start while waiting for federal funding." 

The health department says it's working to get the vaccine into more diverse communities and is now working with Philly Black Pride.

Click here to learn more about the dashboard. 

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