The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the Monkeypox Vaccine Equity Pilot Program this week, marking the federal government’s latest effort to combat the ongoing outbreak. 

As part of the program, up to 50,000 Jynneos vaccines will be allocated for state and local governments as well as community healthcare organizations to apply for access. The program is designed to reduce obstacles to access for the vaccines, including language barriers, vaccine hesitancy, mistrust of government or medical institutions and location of sites of care.

Proposals will be judged on a series of factors, including prioritization of groups that have risk factors increasing their chances of contracting the virus, those who are overrepresented among cases while also less likely to be vaccinated and those whose barriers to vaccination may be addressed by proposed activities. 

Since the monkeypox outbreak began in the spring, the U.S. has had more than 23,000 confirmed cases, including one death that was reported earlier this week in Los Angeles County. Still, the CDC said that the outbreak has started to slow in recent weeks. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., said the new pilot program will make a difference in supporting key stakeholders that are distributing vaccines to vulnerable populations.

“This outbreak is affecting members of the gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men community at an unequal rate, and it has disproportionately affected the Black and Hispanic communities,” Walensky said in a statement. “Distributing monkeypox vaccines in a way that addresses and reduces these disparities is the goal of this program and is a high priority for CDC and our public health partners.”

The CDC joins other federal health agencies and large pharmaceutical companies stepping up to promote vaccinations and protect at-risk patient populations during the outbreak.

Last month, the National Institutes of Health launched a clinical trial to boost the supply of monkeypox vaccines by using ‘dose sparing.’ This involves using smaller doses of Jynneos to stretch the existing supply of vaccines. 

In the private sector, ViiV Healthcare launched a $500,000 monkeypox emergency response fund for community-based organizations that serve people living with HIV. Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences collaborated with several LGBTQIA+ and human rights organizations to pledge $5 million in global grant funding to support a campaign targeting public education and addressing vaccine hesitancy.

Heeding the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC and other health agencies are seeking to curb the spread of monkeypox before a more dangerous variant may arise

Earlier this month, U.K. health officials announced that a patient was diagnosed with a new strain of monkeypox following a recent trip to West Africa.