Philly Health Groups Can Apply for Monkeypox Outreach Grants

Philadelphia city health officials are trying to overcome a vaccine inequity as Black residents are most affected by the monkeypox outbreak, but white residents are getting a majority of the vaccines. Now, the city wants to give out grants to up to 10 health organizations to get the vaccine to residents most affected.

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Lee la historia en español aquí.

More than a week after the City of Philadelphia announced it would receive another 3,500 vials of monkeypox vaccine, city health officials said it would give up to $375,000 in grants to groups that could help increase the equitable distribution of the vaccines to residents.

Up to 10 grants will be issued soon. The city is asking that interested groups submit proposals "to expand monkeypox vaccination services and related outreach activities for populations who are at high risk for monkeypox."

“We’re very excited for this opportunity,” city Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Frank Franklin said in a release Thursday. “As part of our ongoing efforts to make monkeypox vaccine more easily available to those folks that are being disproportionately affected by this outbreak, this grant program is intended to align with all of the great work already happening in the community. By working with partners who know this community best, we hope to get more vulnerable populations vaccinated and the communicate the importance of getting vaccinated.”

City data show unequal distribution of the vaccine. As of Aug. 22, 57% of vaccines had gone to white people, even though Black people made up 56% of infections. Only 23% of vaccines have gone to Black Philadelphians, according to the data.

The city has placed an order for a 1,120-unit batch of vaccines and will be able to order more once it uses up 85% of the first batch, city health officials said Aug. 22.

Monkeypox was declared a "global health emergency" by the World Health Organization in late July.

Newly released data indicates a majority of monkeypox patients in Philadelphia are Black, but most people getting vaccinated are white. NBC10's Lauren Mayk talked with the city health commissioner to find out why.

One of the obstacles preventing more equitable vaccine distribution is a lack of federal funding, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said last month. This lack of funds has made it difficult for the department to give money to “trusted partners” within communities to provide vaccines, she said, echoing what she told NBC10 in an interview last week.

"We are government, we are health care, we are not the most trusted messengers of this vaccine. So, what we’ve come to realize is that if we want to get to those equitable numbers – and we’re really committed to getting there – we have to have funding for this,” Bettigole said at the time.

A spokesman for the city's Department of Public Health said in a statement Wednesday that the $375,000 has been identified from the department's budget, and will hopefully get reimbursed by the federal government.

"We have identified $375,000 in PDPH funding that we plan to use for these urgently needed community grants. We do not yet have confirmation of federal reimbursement, but are tracking all Monkeypox-related expenses including this grant program in hopes that these funds will be reimbursed," the spokeman said in an email. "We believe that community partners can help us to close the equity gap in vaccinations, so we’re prioritizing the use of funding to kickstart these efforts since community partners need additional resources to do this work."

Bettigole said the health department will be administering the vaccine intradermally, under the top layer of the skin, after the Food and Drug Administration allowed the practice of reducing doses per vaccine in an effort to give shots to more people.

“We do believe that approach is going to be safe and effective and, importantly, let us reach the broader community of people at high risk who need vaccination,” Bettigole said.

Monkeypox spreads through “close, personal, often skin-to-skin” contact, including touching objects, fabrics and surfaces used by someone infected with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus presents itself as a rash and causes symptoms like fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and muscle aches. Many in the outbreak have developed extremely painful zit-like bumps.

The U.S. has the most infections of any country.

Philadelphia has made an online dashboard that tracks the stats behind the city's fight against monkeypox. NBC10's Miguel Martinez-Valle reports.

The CDC has said monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection and that its spread through sex is a biproduct of the skin-to-skin contact that happens during intercourse. However, new research suggests that sex between men could be a driver of infections, particularly through seminal fluids exchanged during oral and anal intercourse.

About 98% of U.S. cases are men and about 93% were men who reported recent sexual contact with other men. However, the CDC warns that the virus can also infect women and can spread through vaginal contact, and that anyone can be infected, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

One of the steps officials are suggesting to prevent spread of the virus is temporarily limiting the number of one’s sexual partners.

Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have been infected through bites from rodents and other small animals, but it wasn’t considered a disease that spreads easily among people until May, when infections emerged in Europe and the U.S.

Contact Us