Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is calling on the federal government to ramp up its monkeypox response as cases continue to climb in Chicago, according to a statement released from his office Thursday.
Pritzker is also sending 4,600 more vaccine doses to Chicago, which accounts for 86% of the cases in the state, the statement said. The doses had been originally allocated to the state by the federal government.
The federal government should further prioritize areas hardest hit by the virus’ emerging outbreak for vaccines, Pritzker told U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a letter, which was also sent to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell.
“We know that a swift response is essential when confronting outbreaks of disease,” Pritzker said in the statement. “And we’ve learned in the last few years that most people are eager to protect themselves and their communities when given the tools to do so. We must give the public and health professionals every tool possible to counter the spread of monkeypox, which is why I’m urging the federal governments to take further action.”
The city reported 173 monkeypox cases Monday, up from 105 cases a week before. Concern has swelled among doctors and experts across Chicago and the country as case counts rise. As the outbreak affects men who have sex with men particularly hard, gay men have also called for more aggressive vaccination, testing and information sharing.
[ Monkeypox concern grows as virus spreads in Chicago: ‘They need to get loud about this’ ]
Chicago has received 3,300 vaccine doses directly from the federal government, with another 15,440 allotted to the city but not yet delivered, the governor’s news release said.
The state sent 2,600 doses of its federal allocation to Chicago and will now provide an additional 2,000 doses in the coming weeks, it continued.
The city needs thousands more doses to inoculate those most at risk of contracting monkeypox, Dr. Daniel Berger, an HIV specialist, previously told the Tribune.
“I believe everyone in our community should be vaccinated. This is just the beginning,” said Berger, who founded LGBTQ-focused Northstar Healthcare Medical Center.
The smallpox-related virus was first detected in humans in 1970 and is endemic to parts of west and central Africa. The illness often begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes before progressing to distinct, large rashes throughout the body that look like pimples or blisters. Monkeypox can last up to four weeks.
The virus is generally passed on through close physical contact with the scab or bodily fluids of someone who has monkeypox, as well as contact with objects they’ve touched. Spread could occur through normal acts like sharing a towel or having intimate sexual contact.
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Cases are steadily increasing despite government efforts, said Amaal Tokars, acting director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. The rapid distribution of effective vaccines is the best defense, she said.
“While we are grateful for all the federal support we have received to date, we urge the federal government to make every effort to the extent possible to streamline the process and ramp up deliveries of vaccines so they can be promptly administered to the population that is most at risk,” Tokars said in a statement.
The World Health Organization’s emergency committee was set to convene Thursday to consider for the second time within weeks whether to declare monkeypox a global crisis.
[ WHO again considers declaring monkeypox a global emergency ]
Chicago Ald. Maria Hadden, 49th Ward, planned to host a town hall Thursday night to share information about the disease. The event, set for 7 p.m., will feature experts from LGBTQ-focused Howard Brown Health and will be livestreamed online.
Find more information on the Chicago Department of Public Health’s monkeypox facts page. More information can also be found at the Chicago Health Alert Network’s monkeypox page.