A man receives a vaccine shot
Posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

Gay and bi men in some counties in Florida may be at greater risk of a resurgence in mpox (formerly known as monkeypox). It appears that only a minority of gay men in the state received both doses of the mpox vaccine.

Since the mpox outbreak of last summer, 30,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with the infection, with the majority of infections among gay and bi men. There have been around 40 deaths. Just over half of those were in people with advanced HIV and compromised immune systems.

In recent weeks, there have been concerns of a resurgence in the disease. Chicago has seen more cases in recent weeks than it did in the first three months of the year. Health experts believe the warmer weather and the socializing that accompanies Pride season could see increases elsewhere.

Recent CDC data highlighted the 15 counties across the US that have low vaccination rates. Topping the list was Duval County in Florida. Three other Florida counties also make the top 15.

In Duval, only 6% of men who have sex with men report getting either one or both doses of the vaccine. This makes it around 57% likely another outbreak may occur, according to the CDC. That’s higher than anywhere else in the US.

Following this, Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties both have a 52% risk of outbreaks, while Pinellas has 48%. In Hillsborough and Palm Beach, only around 15% of the local gay male population is vaccinated.

DeSantis administration downplays mpox fears

Florida has had over 3,000 of the 30,000 mpox cases in the US. Its low vaccination rate may have something to do with the state administration’s attitude toward vaccination and wider gay health issues. Last August, Governor Ron DeSantis downplayed the ramifications of the mpox outbreak sweeping the US.

“I am so sick of politicians, and we saw this with Covid, trying to sow fear into the population,” DeSantis said during a press conference near Orlando. “We’re not doing fear.”

His surgeon general, Joseph A. Ladapo, also took part in the press conference. He questioned the safety of two vaccines recommended by the CDC for mpox, claiming little data existed for their effectiveness.

Last month, the CDC issued the results of the first real-world study into the effectiveness of the most widely used mpox vaccine. That means a study undertaken during an actual outbreak rather than under trial conditions. They studied over 900 people in 12 different regions of the US. Of these, 300 had been vaccinated, while 600 had not.

The study took place between August 19, 2022, and March 31, 2023. And the results were clear. One shot of the vaccine led to 75% protection against the mpox virus. Two shots led to 86% protection.

Hopefully, that’s enough data to now reassure Dr. Ladapo!

The CDC has sought to encourage all gay and bi men to get both shots of the vaccine.

Texas counties also at risk

Besides the Florida counties mentioned, four counties in Texas also made the top 15. The list was as follows.

  • Duval County, Florida — 57% risk of an mpox resurgence.
  • Shelby County, Tennessee – 55%
  • Hamilton County, Ohio — 55%
  • Bexar County, Texas — 54%
  • Dallas County, Texas — 53%
  • Palm Beach County, Florida — 52%
  • Hillsborough County, Florida — 52%
  • Tarrant County, Texas — 51%
  • Wayne County, Michigan — 51%
  • Harris County, Texas — 50%
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana — 50%
  • San Bernardino County, California — 49%
  • Pinellas County, Florida — 48%
  • Gwinnett County, Georgia — 48%
  • Marion County, Indiana — 46%

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