NEW YORK — The US is setting aside an additional 50,000 doses monkeypox vaccine for locations with upcoming gay parades, health officials said Thursday.
The number of doses sent to each will be based on factors such as the scale of the event, how many health care workers will be available to give vaccines, and how many of the attendees are considered to be at the highest risk of contracting the virus.
“More gun shots is how we’re going to contain the epidemic,” Bob Fenton, the White House monkeypox response coordinator, told reporters Thursday. He said the effort is an attempt to “meet people where they are.”
At least a dozen parade events in the USA are planned over the next two months, including major gatherings in Atlanta and New Orleans in early September. US officials said they would send up to 2,000 additional doses to North Carolina, where the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade will be held this weekend.
“Although we offer the vaccine at these events to those at high risk, it is a two-dose vaccine series, and receiving the vaccine at the event will not provide protection at the event itself,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of diseases.
Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa where people have been infected by bites from rodents or small animals, but it is not considered a disease that spreads easily among humans until May, when infections emerged in Europe and the United States
More than 39,000 cases have been reported in countries that have never seen monkeypox before. The majority of cases occur in men who have sex with men, but health officials stress that anyone can get monkeypox.
United States has the most infections from each country, more than 13,500. About 98% of cases in the US are men, and about 93% are men who report recent sexual contact with other men.
Officials say the virus is spread mainly through skin-to-skin contact, but they warn it can be transmitted in other ways, including by touching bedding used by someone with monkeypox.
People with monkeypox may experience fever, body aches, chills, and fatigue. Many of the outbreaks have developed extremely painful, pimple-like bumps. No one in the United States has died, but there have been reports of deaths in other countries.
The US has limited supplies of what is believed to be the main weapon against the virus – a vaccine called Jynneos. Currently, doses are given to people soon after they think they have been exposed. Scientists are still trying to determine how well the photos work.
The government last week moved to stretch delivery giving people a fifth of the usual dose injected just under the skin, instead of a full vial injected into deeper tissue. Officials this week announced the release of 442,000 of the smaller doses to be ordered by state, local and territory health departments. On Thursday, they said 1.8 million doses, or 360,000 vials, are coming as early as next week.
Many healthcare workers may have little experience with injecting using the method just under the skin, which requires different needles and syringes. Some health departments and health centers, including in Atlanta and Los Angeles, have begun administering monkeypox vaccines this way, U.S. officials said. But some local officials said it could take a week or more to make the change.
Also Thursday, health officials said next week they would increase supplies of TPOXX, a drug to treat monkeypox infections, by 50,000 courses of treatment.
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