Historical and systemic discrimination prevalent in monkeypox vaccine distribution

Equity in public health responses has always been lacking, to put it lightly. 

As the United States quickly became the epicenter of the global monkeypox outbreak, access to the limited number of vaccines showed us nothing new. 

While the national view on vaccine disparities is incomplete (and some cases lack reporting), most cases of monkeypox have been among Black and Brown men who report recently having had sex with men. Despite this, men of color are receiving a fraction of the limited vaccines compared to their white counterparts.

The disproportionate impact of a virus and the disparities in prevention and treatment are similar to what we’ve seen in other epidemics like COVID-19 and HIV. 

Systemic racism is the common thread. 

There is nothing unique about Black bodies that make us more susceptible to these viruses. These disparities exist because our systems are ingrained with white supremacy. 

Inequities in housing, transportation, jobs and health care — just to name four — lead predictably to racial health disparities. 

We have so much work to do to fix these issues. 

And in the immediate response to monkeypox, we agree with our friends at the Human Rights Campaign, who said: 

“Government entities must do better to prioritize reaching Black and Brown gay, bi+, and transgender men, as well as transgender women and nonbinary individuals, especially those individuals living with HIV. Partnering with community organizations and sexual health clinics is paramount.” [emphasis added]