Clinics across the country will begin offering monkeypox vaccinations to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus, federal health officials announced Tuesday.
So far, immunizations have only been offered to people with known exposure.
At a press briefing, officials said states will receive doses of a safer, newer monkeypox vaccine called Genus from the federal stockpile, based on the number of cases and the proportion of the state’s population at risk of developing serious disease.
State health authorities may also order supplies of an older vaccine developed for smallpox, which is thought to protect against monkeypox as well.
The Department of Health and Human Services will provide 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine immediately and an additional 240,000 doses in the coming weeks. A further 750,000 doses are expected to be available during the summer, and a total of 1.6 million doses by the end of this year.
“This vaccine currently has some supply limitations, which is why the department’s current vaccine strategy is prioritizing making it available to those who need it most,” said Dr. Rochelle Wallinsky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An older smallpox vaccine, called ACAM2000, is associated with severe side effects, including death, in immunocompromised people, pregnant women, and the elderly.
The new vaccination plan was met with swift criticism from experts, who said the campaign was too small and too slow to make an impact. Researchers have warned that the longer it takes to contain an outbreak of monkeypox, the greater the chances of the virus taking hold in the United States, especially among men who have sex with men.
“A lot of us are worried about closing the window until we can eradicate monkeypox,” said Dr. Celine Gunder, infectious disease expert and public health editor at Kaiser Health News.
“If we don’t start vaccination more quickly and on a large scale, we are going to have a very difficult time containing this,” she said. Ideally, monkeypox tests and vaccines would have been offered at LGBTQ Pride events across the country in order to reach men at high risk of contracting the virus, Dr. Gunder added.
Some experts said the plan is also unfair to at-risk men who won’t have access to the Jynneos vaccine, especially those who have HIV and can’t safely take the older smallpox vaccine.
“There will not be enough to meet the need,” said Elizabeth Finley, director of communications for the National Alliance of STD Directors. Additionally, without better testing capacity, a strategy based on positive case contacts fails.
It’s also not clear what would be considered a possible exposure, she added, adding: “Do you need to know someone at the event tested positive, or are you just saying, ‘Oh, I’ve gone into delirium and I want to be safe? “
Ms Finley said many doctors are concerned about the side effects and scarring from the older smallpox vaccine, as well as misinformation and vaccine hesitation that they might be fueling. “We had doctors saying there was no way in hell they could give someone ACAM2000,” she said.
On the other hand, the Jynneos vaccine has not been used on this scale, and federal health officials have said they will be watching for unexpected side effects.
So far, officials said Tuesday, the administration has provided more than 9,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine and 300 courses of antiviral treatments to 32 jurisdictions in the country.
The European Union adopts a Similar plan, sending 5,300 doses of its 100,000 guineas to Spain, which has the highest number of cases, followed by Portugal, Germany and Belgium. Other Member States will receive doses in July and August.
The number of monkeypox cases rose sharply in many European countries and the United States.
As of June 28, there were 306 cases in 27 states and the District of Columbia, up from 156 the previous week. Dr. Walinsky said the CDC has activated its emergency operations center to better monitor and respond to the outbreak.
Dr. Jay Varma, director of the Cornell Center for Epidemic Prevention and Response, said the reported numbers are likely to be an underestimate. “It is very clear to me and many others that the epidemic is much greater than our official case indicates,” he said.
Given the increasing numbers, it is unlikely that the available doses will be sufficient to meet demand. The Washington Department of Health offered 300 monkeypox vaccination dates for Monday. The slots were filled in less than 15 minutes.
New York City, which has identified 55 cases of monkeypox as of Tuesday, has 1,000 doses of the Genus vaccine on hand. The city’s health department has begun administering the vaccines at a single clinic in Chelsea, where clients consist largely of wealthy white men who have sex with men.
The city offered the first doses in Noon on June 23. Less than two hours later, officials announce The clinic is no longer able to accommodate visits and has booked appointments until June 27. As of Tuesday, the city was I’m still waiting More doses of the vaccine become available.
“It started and then it stopped, it started without anyone prepared, and I’m not sure when it will come back,” said Keletso Makofane, a social networking epidemiologist at Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights.
“All this uncertainty is not helping us develop the confidence we need,” said Dr. Makovani.
Several experts also objected to the site and said the vaccines would have been better served in clinics frequented by black men with untreated HIV and limited access to health care.
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