When Michael Cummings, 24, called his doctor to ask where he can get the monkeypox vaccine, he says his provider didn’t know.
"I was like, 'Really? That’s the answer I’m getting? You just have nothing you can tell me?' and I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through that experience," Cummings said.
Cummings started searching the internet immediately and the very next day, on Aug. 4, 2022, the software engineer launched a new website with everything he learned at www.chicago.care.
"I couldn’t believe that the domain was available. Finding the domain is half the battle," Cummings said.
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The website lists provider locations, availability and even referral codes if needed. Cummings runs it but has a few friends who help with making phone calls.
"To keep the information up to date, we call and update the information on the website," Cummings said.
One of the providers listed is Howard Brown Health, where they're currently administering about 1,000 Jynneos vaccine doses a week.
"I think there's still much higher demand than there is supply, but our supply has improved dramatically once the doses from Denmark were shipped back to the United States at the end of July," said Dr. Anu Hazra, co-medical director at Howard Brown Health.
To increase access even more, the FDA recently authorized the Jyennos vaccine to be given intradermally, which is basically a more shallow injection that requires one-fifth of a regular dose.
A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Public Health says they are not doing the intradermal approach now but are preparing for it.
"You need special types of needles and special type of training in order to do this type of administration," Dr. Hazra said. "So the city is giving most of the vaccine sites time to ramp this up or to get to get all the resources needed."
Jynneos is a two-dose vaccine, but right now the city is only authorizing first doses to those eligible.
"The city was saying that if we do move to the intradermal approach, then people, everyone would be guaranteed the second dose, in general," Dr. Hazra said.
In the meantime, Cummings hopes to help those still looking for that first dose.
"We’ve had people responding to our tweets and sending us DMs on Instagram saying thank you so much for putting this together; it helped me find care," Cummings said.
According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, the city received over 33,000 vaccine doses as of Monday and more than 31,000 have been distributed. The rest will be distributed to Chicago providers by the end of the week. As of Monday, "Chicago will be able to order nearly 10,000 doses to be administered under the skin (intradermally)."
"CDPH will continue to work with providers to combine efficiency and equity," a CDPH spokesman said. "Many health care providers and sexual health clinics are administering vaccine across Chicago. We have also partnered clinical providers with community-based organizations and venues to reach LGBTQIA+ individuals eligible for the vaccine."