Tuesday, March 21, 2023

State makes monkeypox vaccine guidance more inclusive as cases rise

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Monkeypox vaccines are being made available this week to all sexually active gay and bisexual men, men who have sex with men, or transgender individuals along with people who have had sexual contact with someone in one of those categories. 

The state updated its guidance and expanded JYNNEOS vaccine eligibility in an announcement on Sept. 6 due to increases in monkeypox cases and vaccine availability statewide. The new criteria also removes requirements that would have prevented some gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men from getting vaccinated. 

Starting Wednesday, vaccine will be available for people who meet any of the following criteria: 

  • Anyone who had close contact in the past two weeks with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox; or 
  • Gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men, or transgender individuals, who are sexually active; or  
  • People who have had sexual contact with gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men, or transgender individuals in the past 90 days; or 
  • People living with HIV, or taking medication to prevent HIV (PrEP), or who were diagnosed with syphilis in the past 90 days. 

As of Sept. 6, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 377 cases statewide, up from 250 on Aug. 23. Almost all of the cases are males and 68% of cases are affecting Black individuals, but only 27% of Black people have received a vaccine. As of Aug. 31, the state has administered over 11,000 vaccines. 

According to NCDHHS, cases are still in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. The CDC reports 78.9% of individuals report man to man sexual contact. Around half of North Carolina’s cases are being diagnosed in people living with HIV, or in people who are taking medication to prevent HIV, or who have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, according to NCDHHS. 

The first case of monkeypox in New Hanover County was reported on Aug. 22. New Hanover was among the first counties to receive a JYNNEOS vaccine shipment in July. Around 250 of the series had been administered as of Aug. 22.

People most commonly get monkeypox through close and sustained skin-to-skin contact, including, but not limited to, intimate and sexual contact. The virus can also spread through body fluids, like saliva, or fluid from the lesions of infected individuals. The incubation period is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days. People with monkeypox are infectious from the start of symptoms (before the rash forms) until the lesions heal and new skin forms underneath scabs and the scabs have all fallen off.  

Many people with monkeypox experience flu-like symptoms and the blisters are very painful. However, monkeypox is rarely fatal and most people get better on their own.

NCDHHS encourages people who suspect they might have monkeypox to get tested at a local healthcare provider and limit skin-to-skin contact with others.  

The JYNNEOS vaccine requires two doses at least 28 days apart, and it takes 14 days after getting the second dose of JYNNEOS to reach maximum protection. People who have already been exposed to monkeypox but do not have symptoms can be vaccinated to prevent illness or lead to milder symptoms if given within 14 days after exposure.


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