A Democratic congressman is calling on the Biden administration to publish demographic data on monkeypox vaccinations in an effort to reduce disparities in communities of color.
“Without the publication of demographic data, the public has no means of knowing whether communities of color have equitable access to the vaccine. We have no choice but to assume that communities of color have been left behind because we always have been,” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky.
Torres represents the South Bronx, the nation’s poorest congressional district. New York City is also proving to be the epicenter of the monkeypox outbreak.
“As seen in the public health response to COVID, communities of color often face structural barriers to accessing vaccines, and those barriers will persist unless and until the government breaks them down through targeted vaccination campaigns,” Torres wrote.
Monkeypox is a reportable disease, which means state and local public health departments collect information about people who are diagnosed and how they became ill.
But the CDC has so far been unable to collect a full picture of the outbreak, as data sharing between states and the federal government has been voluntary.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 51 jurisdictions have signed data use agreements that will provide the CDC with information related to vaccine administration.
The agency said last week’s decision to declare monkeypox a public health emergency “may provide the justification that the remaining jurisdictions need to sign their agreements.”
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, African Americans, Latinos and Asians make up at least a third of New York City’s monkeypox cases, but “the extent of vaccination in communities of color in both New York City and across the country remains a question mark because demographic data has gone uncollected and unreported—at significant cost to both racial equity and public health,” Torres wrote.