DENVER – State health officials are hosting monkeypox vaccine clinics this week to prevent the further spread of the virus in Colorado as cases continue to grow worldwide.
Three hundred doses of the FDA-approved JYNNEOS vaccine from the federal government’s strategic national stockpile will be administered in the Denver metro area between Tuesday, Friday and Saturday to help prevent the further spread of the monkeypox virus, officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said in a news release Friday.
The vaccines will be available for men who identify as gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) who’ve had multiple or anonymous sex partners within the past 14 days. Anyone who believes they have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox in the last 14 days also qualifies for the vaccine, CDPHE officials said.
Appointments for the monkeypox vaccine on Friday and Saturday are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and can be made online once people interested in the vaccine fill out this form, which will include a symptom screening process where Coloradans can self-attest to their eligibility. Those eligible will then receive a follow-up confirmation email to schedule a vaccine appointment.
Those who can’t go to a vaccination clinic but who believe they may have been exposed and want the vaccine should contact their health care provider as soon as possible, the CDPHE said.
Scott Bookman, the CDPHE’s division director of Disease Control and Public Health Response, said last week the state expects demand to outweigh supply and said in a prepared statement that the CDPHE continues to work with the federal government to get more vaccines, as the feds are currently allocating doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine by state population and prevalence of monkeypox.
Seven cases of the virus have so far been reported in Colorado as of Tuesday, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the recent outbreak suggests there is a heightened risk for contracting monkeypox among men who have sex with men, anyone can be infected – and not necessarily just through sex – if they’ve had close contact for prolonged periods of time with an infected person, health experts have stressed.
The majority of U.S. cases have occurred after people were exposed through intimate close contacts via droplet transmission, according to Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, the CDC’s deputy director for the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
Biden administration to distribute hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses over the summer
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last Tuesday it would be sending out 296,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine across the country in the coming weeks with 56,000 of those becoming immediately available to those most at risk for the disease. An additional 240,000 will follow in the next few weeks.
HHS officials said in a call with reporters they expected 750,000 more doses to be available over the summer with another 500,000 available throughout the fall, according to ABC News.
The shift in strategy comes as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) monkeypox emergency committee is expected to reconvene after initially declaring on June 25 that the monkeypox outbreak currently impacting more than 50 countries where the disease is not endemic did not constitute a public health emergency of international concern.
In the U.S., the CDC expanded its recommendation of who gets the monkeypox vaccine due to the difficulty in identifying all contacts from an infected person in the current outbreak. Before last week, the CDC only advised vaccinations for people who were identified as close contacts of a case through contact tracing.
What to know about monkeypox
Monkeypox, which is endemic in parts of western and central Africa, is caused by an infection from a virus in the same family as smallpox, causing a similar (but less severe) illness, according to Harvard Health.
Symptoms can include fever, headaches, muscle aches, exhaustion, backaches, swollen lymph nodes and chills, followed by a rash which usually begins in the face and spreads to other parts of the body, including the genital area and anus.
The incubation period for monkeypox is usually between a week and 14 days, but symptoms can appear in as little as 5 to as long as 21 days, according to the CDC.
In humans, the virus can spread through direct contact with the infectious rash and scabs of an infected person, and through large respiratory droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact as well as through intimate contact where bodily fluids are exchanged, such as through kissing or sex. Other less common ways the virus can spread is through contaminated clothing or linens. Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
The CDC is currently investigating whether the disease can spread asymptomatically, just like SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Health officials are also investigating whether the virus could be present in semen, vaginal fluids, and fecal matter.
Complications from the disease can include pneumonia, vision loss due to eye infection, and sepsis, a life-threatening infection. The strain currently spreading across the world has a fatality rate of about 1%, health officials say.