For immediate release: July 8, 2022 (22-101)
Contact: Communications from the Ministry of Health
OLYMPIA— To help stop the spread of the monkeypox virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced plans to distribute a limited amount of vaccine in Washington State. Because federal government supply is limited, allocations are based on the number of monkeypox cases in each state.
Due to the relatively low number of cases here compared to other jurisdictions, Washington State has been assigned 398 courses (796 doses) of the 2-dose JYNNEOS vaccine. Of this allocation, 272 courses have already been distributed to jurisdictions with known cases and close contacts.
Currently, 15 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox have been identified in Washington State, including one person who was exposed in another state but tested positive in Washington. All other cases are King County residents.
The first cases of monkeypox were identified in people who had traveled outside of Washington state. More recently, cases have been identified in people who have no recent travel history, meaning they likely had local exposure to monkeypox. Investigators are working to notify close contacts of these cases.
“The risk to the public is low at this time. Transmission typically requires close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has symptoms of the disease,” said Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases. “For people who have had recent contact with someone who tested positive for monkeypox, the vaccine may reduce the risk of developing monkeypox infection.”
Due to the current limited vaccine supply, Phase I calls on the government to allocate 56,000 doses from the strategic stockpile using a tiered distribution strategy that prioritizes states and jurisdictions with the highest case rates of highest monkeypox.
In late July or early August, Phase II will make an additional 240,000 doses available nationwide. Eventually, more than one million doses are planned for distribution across the United States. It’s unclear how many more doses Washington state will receive.
The majority of phase I doses will be used to vaccinate high and intermediate risk close contacts of confirmed and probable cases. A limited number will be administered as pre-exposure prophylaxis to laboratory workers who directly handle specimens. Public health officials say once they know how many vaccines will arrive in Washington and when, they will be able to implement plans to vaccinate high-risk people who have not been exposed. Without additional CDC supplies, there are no plans to hold vaccination clinics or distribute vaccines to providers.
The CDC does not consider monkeypox an occupational hazard for healthcare professionals and does not currently recommend vaccinations.
Who is at risk?
Monkeypox can cause flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that can appear anywhere on the body. In the current epidemic, many cases have presented with lesions on the genitals or in the anal region. Some people experience rectal pain first, with or without flu-like symptoms.
Anyone can get monkeypox, but some people are at higher risk. Unlike the virus that causes COVID-19, monkeypox is spread primarily through close contact and does not spread through the air over longer distances. Brief interactions that do not involve physical contact and healthcare interactions conducted using appropriate protective equipment are generally considered low risk.
Although current cases nationally and internationally are primarily in men who have sex with men, anyone who is sexually active with multiple partners or a partner of a person who has sex with multiple partners may be exposed to monkeypox. Other risk factors may include travel to areas where monkeypox is spreading, close, non-sexual contact with a known case, or contact with sick animals. To protect yourself and others from monkeypox or sexually infectious diseases, the DOH recommends practicing safer sex and avoiding sexual contact with anyone with open wounds, sores, or rashes.
Public health officials are encouraging anyone with symptoms of monkeypox, or anyone who has been in close contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox in the past 21 days, to contact a health care provider to see if they should be tested. Providers should have a high level of suspicion if patients present with a rash, particularly if they also report recent sexual or close contact with a possible case.
Infections with the strain of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak are rarely fatal. Most do not require hospitalization. To date, no one in the United States has died from monkeypox.
People infected with the virus usually recover in 2 to 4 weeks, but the disease can be serious, especially for immunocompromised people, children, people with a history of eczema, or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The good news is that Washington State has no shortage of testing capacity for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses that includes monkeypox. The Washington State Public Health Laboratory (PHL) was able to test all suspected cases that our state’s health care providers reported to their local health departments. Since May, PHL has tested more than 60 monkeypox samples. Additionally, commercial labs across the country are now able to test for orthopoxvirus.
“The DOH is actively working with local health jurisdictions, tribal partners and community groups to develop an equitable distribution plan for this vaccine,” Lindquist said. “We just need more vaccines.”
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