The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) released a report on monkeypox in the state which showed that, while 70 percent of cases are in black men, black state residents have received less than a quarter of the vaccinations so far.

In the case of COVID-19, black men were one group that proved more reluctant to get vaccinated, which is one reason Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston got vaccinated for the coronavirus in a highly public way.  He encouraged other African-Americans to get vaccinated as well.

Now state health officials want state residents at high risk to get vaccinated for the new disease that’s a growing health threat across the state.

North Carolina with a population of over 10 million is reporting 122 monkeypox cases — all in males and nearly all in men who have sex with men.  Those findings are consistent with findings in other states as well as in other countries.

The state study looked at demographic data as of Monday, Aug. 8, which included 111 of the 122 cases. The data shows that 70 percent of cases are in black men and 19 percent are in white men.

But only 24 percent of vaccines have gone to black recipients. The study found that  3,048 vaccine doses have been administered across the state so far. More are expected in the coming weeks.

In a press release, NCDHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley said everyone should keep in mind that the disease doesn’t just strike gay men.

“It’s important to remember that anyone in any group of people can get monkeypox, which spreads mostly through prolonged skin-to-skin contact,” Kinsley stated.  “Partnering together to prioritize vaccine for the individuals currently most impacted by the virus will provide relief for that community and help control further spread.”

NCDHHS is continuing to work with vaccine providers and community partners to help more vaccines reach those at most risk for monkeypox.

The department has hosted a virtual town hall on monkeypox and has visited health departments and community organizations to discuss the best response to the outbreak, address concerns and reach those who are most in need of testing and vaccination.

The vaccine has been prioritized for people who are currently most at risk of exposure to monkeypox.  NCDHHS is working with the federal government as well as with local health departments and clinics to make changes that could lead to the number of available vaccine doses increasing by as much as five-fold.

Public health officials urge North Carolinians to “Get Checked. Get Tested. Get Vaccinated.”

Testing is widely available for everyone, and, as vaccines continue arriving in the state, health officials encourage those at-risk and eligible to seek vaccination as soon as possible.

NCDHHS made assurances in the press release that the department is “working to equitably get vaccines across the state to those most at risk.”