AUSTIN (KXAN) — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a new monkeypox vaccine distribution plan Tuesday. There are more than 300 monkeypox cases reported nationwide so far. Seven of those are in Texas, including a couple in Travis County.
HHS announced it will send a total of 240,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine, which protects against monkeypox, to areas nationwide with the highest transmission of the virus over the next few weeks. It will also push out shipments of ACAM2000 to health departments by request. ACAM2000 is a more widely available vaccine, but has “significant side effects” and is not recommended for everyone, the White House and HHS said in a release.
HHS also said 1.6 million doses of JYNNEOS will be released by the end of the year. The vaccines will be distributed first to locations with the highest monkeypox case rates and also with a high number of people at risk for monkeypox.
“This new strategy allows us to maximize the supply of currently available vaccines and reach those who are most vulnerable to the current outbreak,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now recommends people who are high risk and have a confirmed monkeypox exposure be vaccinated. It said because of the large number of contacts and challenges identifying everyone who is exposed, vaccine is being given to people with presumed monkeypox exposures.
“This includes those who had close physical contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox, those who know their sexual partner was diagnosed with monkeypox, and men who have sex with men who have recently had multiple sex partners in a venue where there was known to be monkeypox or in an area where monkeypox is spreading,” it said in a release.
Vaccination within two weeks of exposure can help reduce the risk of experiencing symptoms and of getting the virus altogether, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
The White House is also working to distribute monkeypox testing equipment and support healthcare providers around the country, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said Tuesday.
Monkeypox in Austin-Travis County
After the first assumed monkeypox case was reported in Travis County last week, the Austin-Travis County health authority said several people are now under investigation or being monitored locally for the virus.
“It’s not just travel related; we are having community spread so we are preparing for that,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the health authority, said in a Travis County commissioners court briefing where she also talked about COVID-19. “We are requesting medical countermeasures.”
Walkes said APH has been monitoring several cases since the beginning of June. Once a case is confirmed, APH requests medications from the strategic national stockpile to treat those people. APH has also opened an operations center, she said.
You can read about the symptoms of monkey pox in this story.
“The most important point to start with is remind folks that this is not a novel virus,” said Jha said, noting that unlike the COVID-19 pandemic, monkeypox is not new and there are tests, treatments and vaccines already available. So far, monkeypox has not been fatal.