U.S. expands eligibility for monkeypox vaccine, will increase supply as cases rise – National | The Canadian News

In response to a surprising and growing outbreak of monkeypox, U.S. health officials on Tuesday expanded the group of people recommended for vaccination against monkeypox virus.

They also said they are providing more monkeypox vaccine, working to expand testing and taking other steps to try to stay ahead of the outbreak.

“We will continue to take aggressive action against this virus,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, coordinator of the White House COVID-19 response, who has also played a role in how the government deals with monkeypox.

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The administration said it was broadening the group of people who are advised to be vaccinated to include those who may realize on their own that they could have been infected. This includes men who have recently had sex with men at parties or other gatherings in cities where monkeypox cases have been identified.

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Most patients with monkeypox experience only fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. Those with more severe disease may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.

The disease is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have become infected through the bites of rodents or small animals. It does not usually spread easily among people.

Last month, cases began appearing in Europe and the United States. Many – but not all – of those who contracted the virus had traveled abroad. Most were men who have sex with men, but health officials stress that anyone can contract monkeypox.

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The case count has continued to grow. As of Tuesday, the United States had identified 306 cases in 27 states and the District of Columbia. More than 4,700 cases have been detected in more than 40 countries outside of areas of Africa where the virus is endemic.

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There have been no deaths in the U.S. and officials say the risk to the American public is low. But they are taking steps to reassure people that medical measures are in place to deal with the growing problem.

One step was to expand who is recommended for vaccination. Vaccines are routinely given to build immunity in people before they become infected. But if given within a few days or even a few weeks of becoming infected, some vaccines can reduce the severity of symptoms.

A two-dose vaccine, Jynneos, is approved for monkeypox in the U.S. The government has many more doses of an older smallpox vaccine – ACAM2000 – that they say could also be used, but that vaccine is considered to have a higher risk of side effects and is not recommended for people who have HIV. So it is the Jynneos vaccine that authorities have been trying to use as the main weapon against the monkeypox outbreak.

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So far, the government has deployed more than 9,000 doses of vaccine. On Tuesday, U.S. officials said they are increasing the amount of Jynneos vaccine they are making available, allocating 56,000 doses immediately and about 240,000 more in the coming weeks. They promised more than a million more in the coming months.

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Another change: Until now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that vaccines be given after exposure to people who health officials identify as close personal contacts of cases. But on Tuesday, CDC officials say they are expanding the recommendation to people who were never identified but who may realize on their own that they may have been infected.

That can include men who have sex with men who have recently had multiple sex partners in a place where monkeypox was known to be present or in an area where monkeypox is spreading.

“It’s almost as if we’re expanding the definition of who can be a contact,” said Jennifer McQuiston of the CDC. If people have been to a party or other place where monkeypox is known to spread, “we recommend that they come in and get vaccinated,” she said.

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The CDC expansion follows similar measures taken in New York City and the District of Columbia.

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The District of Columbia has identified 19 cases, but follow-up investigations of the cases revealed that some of the infected men had been at gatherings where they hugged, kissed or had other forms of intimate contact with people they did not know, said Anil Mangla of the District of Columbia health department.

It was clear that “we were missing something here,” and needed to start offering services to others, said Mangla, an epidemiologist.

Last Thursday, the New York City health department – armed with 1,000 doses of Jynneos from the federal government – announced it was opening a temporary clinic to offer the vaccine to all gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the previous two weeks.

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But all appointments filled up quickly that day, and the last round of appointments was Monday. “Until we receive more supplies, we cannot give any more vaccination appointments,” Patrick Gallahue, a spokesman for the city health department, said in an e-mail.

On Monday, the District of Columbia health department took a similar action. The department began taking appointments at 1 p.m. Monday, but had to stop after 20 minutes, Mangla said.

The department had only 200 doses of Jynneos, and it was clear at that point that the department did not have the vaccine supply or the staff to continue enrolling new people, he said.

2022 The Canadian Press


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