AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s the question we’ve gotten most from KXAN viewers: Can I get vaccinated for monkeypox? Because of the shortage of vaccines available in the United States right now, Austin Public Health explained Friday how it’s rationing its doses.
As it stands right now, only the following people are eligible to be vaccinated:
- You have made intimate, prolonged contact with someone who has a confirmed case of monkeypox
- You have had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in an area where monkeypox is known to be spreading, Austin included
Even with strict eligibility requirements set by the state of Texas and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, APH still is not going to be able to vaccinate everyone in that high-risk criteria.
The local health authority said so far the Austin area has received a little more than 3,000 doses of the vaccine, JYNNEOS. The vaccine is given in a two-dose series so cut that number in half when considering how many folks will actually get shots in arms.
“We have plans in place for when we do have enough vaccine to roll it out and stand-up distribution of that vaccine as we have in the past with COVID,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority.
In an interview with KXAN earlier this week, Walkes said it can also take time to fill out the required paperwork and get a vaccine to someone. The CDC recommends people who are exposed to monkeypox get one dose of vaccine less than 14 days after exposure to help mitigate some of the symptoms of the virus.
“If we have vaccine available, they will usually be able to get it within the next week to 10 days. But again, that is dependent upon whether we have a vaccine,” Walkes said.
That’s why health leaders are asking people to educate themselves on monkeypox and avoid becoming exposed to the virus altogether.
As of Thursday, there are nine confirmed and 46 probable cases of monkeypox in Austin-Travis County. There are 559 confirmed monkeypox cases in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The uptick in cases comes as Austin heads into a busy festival season, with large events like Pride and Austin City Limits Music Festival on the horizon.
Walkes said they’ve recommended hand washing stations and sanitization at all fall festival events this year, including at University of Texas Football events. She also said they would encourage participants to avoid skin-to-skin contact and intimate contact with strangers, along with mask-wearing when social distancing is not possible and staying home when sick.
Many of the practices that will help prevent monkeypox are things people have been encouraged to do for more than two years to stop the spread of COVID-19, which is also on APH’s mind as Austin nears the fall festival season.
“We’re starting to get that message out on our website,” Walkes said of both monkeypox and COVID-19 ahead of big events. “Our event organizers are prepared to put fliers up and do those things that they need to do to remind people of mitigation strategies, including letting their participants know ahead of time.”