Monkeypox case rates 5 times higher in black Americans

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Oct. 7, 2022 — Monkeypox cases in the US disproportionately affect Black Americans, with rates five times higher than among white peers, according to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Hispanics, Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders also have significantly higher rates of reported cases of monkeypox.

“Disparities in cases persist among Blacks and Hispanics, a pattern also seen with HIV and COVID-19,” KFF wrote.

The analysis was based on CDC data for 68% of monkeypox cases reported in the US on September 23. Monkeypox case rates are:

  • 14.4 per 100,000 people among black Americans
  • 10 per 100,000 people among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders
  • 8.3 per 100,000 people among Hispanics
  • 3 per 100,000 people among Asian Americans
  • 2.8 per 100,000 people among American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • 2.6 per 100,000 people among white Americans

Overall, Black Americans account for the largest proportion of monkeypox cases, and both Black and Hispanic Americans account for a larger proportion of cases. Approximately 70% of cases involve people of color, while people of color make up 40% of the US population.

The monkeypox outbreak in the US appears to be slowing, KFF wrote, peaking in August and declining in September. However, new cases among black Americans began to outnumber those among white Americans in early August. Although these cases are now declining, the numbers remain higher.

Additionally, black and Hispanic Americans received a lower proportion of monkeypox vaccines, the report found. As of September 27, 51% of the first doses went to white Americans, despite accounting for 30% of cases. In contrast, black Americans received 13% of the first doses, despite accounting for about 35% of cases. Similarly, Hispanics have received 22% of first doses while accounting for 30% of cases.

“The lower proportion of vaccinations among these groups may partially explain why they had higher numbers of new cases and complicate efforts to address the disparities in the future,” KFF wrote.

The US has reported 26,385 cases of monkeypox during the current outbreak latest CDC data. More than 70,000 cases and 27 deaths have been reported worldwide.

KFF noted the ongoing challenge of tracking the outbreak due to data limitations on testing and vaccination. For example, data on race and ethnicity are missing for 32% of reported cases and 9% of vaccinations. Without data, researchers are unable to perform an analysis of differences across multiple factors such as race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and risk.

“As seen with HIV and COVID-19, underlying structural inequalities put people of color at increased risk for public health threats, and focused efforts will be key to minimizing and preventing further inequalities in the future,” wrote KFF. “While the federal government has begun piloting efforts to reach communities of color with MPX vaccines to address disparities, it is unclear whether such efforts will be sufficient to stave off further disproportionate impacts, and much will also depend on what state and local jurisdictions.”

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