More doses of the monkeypox vaccine are on their way to the Houston area as the number of cases continues to rise.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Thursday night on Twitter that 16,780 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine, which is FDA-approved and prevents monkeypox, had been allocated to the Houston area by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Earlier in the week, Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote a joint letter to the CDC asking for more vaccines, and the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health stopped scheduling appointments. you for vaccines due to a supply shortage.
Hidalgo wrote on Twitter that the first of three vaccine shipments were due to arrive on Friday. But Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesperson for the Houston Health Department, said Friday morning it would likely take several days before the additional doses were received.
The city’s health department receives the doses on behalf of the region, Villarreal said, donating 30% of each shipment to Harris County Public Health while also distributing some doses to medical providers.
“We don’t have an exact delivery date,” he said. “At the moment it is just assigned to us.”
Villarreal said there were 66 confirmed cases of monkeypox among Houston residents on Friday, an increase of about 20 cases since Monday. He said the majority of these cases are men who have sex with men, although the virus is not a sexually transmitted disease.
BREAK – Good news. Houston/Harris County has just been awarded an additional 16,780 Monkeypox vaccines, which arrived in 3 waves. First shipment tomorrow. Much needed as Harris County had already filled our waiting list. Not enough but a wonderful start to stay ahead.832-927-0707 for info pic.twitter.com/vufI9FLu9L
— Lina Hidalgo (@LinaHidalgoTX) July 29, 2022
Monkeypox is rarely fatal, according to the CDC, and usually resolves within 2 to 4 weeks. The CDC said symptoms are similar to smallpox but are milder and can include fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that may look like pimples or blisters on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body.
According to the CDC, close or intimate person-to-person contact, such as kissing, cuddling, and having sex, is the primary way monkeypox is spread. The virus can also be spread through contact with infectious rashes, scabs, or bodily fluids or with infected objects, such as clothing and bedding.
Villarreal said the Houston area initially received just over 5,000 doses of the vaccine last Friday July 22, with the 3,500 held by the city’s health department having already been administered or reserved for people in groups to high risk. Vaccination appointments with the Houston Health Department are scheduled through Aug. 8, Villarreal said, with each recipient scheduled to receive a second dose four weeks later to complete the series.
Currently, the vaccine is only given to Houston-area residents who have had contact with someone infected with monkeypox; recently attended an event or place where there was high-risk exposure to someone with monkeypox or sex with anonymous or multiple partners; those taking pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV; and those who have been diagnosed with gonorrhea or syphilis within the past three months.
“If there is a plentiful or expanded supply, once that happens we can open it up to more people,” Villarreal said.
Villarreal urged Houston-area residents to watch for symptoms and contact their doctors if they think they might be infected with monkeypox and also to communicate these concerns to their sexual partners. He said members of the medical community should also be on the lookout for signs of monkeypox.
For local information on the monkeypox outbreak, call the Houston Health Department at 832-393-4220 or Harris County Public Health at 832-927-0707.
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