Health & Science

Houston region to receive more monkeypox vaccine doses as case numbers climb

More than 16,000 additional doses are being sent by the CDC, but the Houston Health Department says it could be several days before the first of three shipments arrives.

More doses of the monkeypox vaccine are on their way to the Houston region as case numbers continue to climb.

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 region 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 both the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health stopped scheduling vaccine appointments because of a supply shortage.

Hidalgo wrote on Twitter that the first of three vaccine shipments was scheduled to arrive Friday. But Porfirio Villarreal, a spokesperson for the Houston Health Department, said Friday morning that it likely would be several days before the additional doses are received.

The city health department receives the doses on behalf of the region, Villarreal said, giving 30 percent of each shipment to Harris County Public Health while also distributing some doses to medical providers.

"We don't have an exact date of delivery," he said. "Right now, it's just allocated to us."

Villarreal said there were 66 confirmed monkeypox cases among Houston residents as of Friday, an increase of about 20 cases since Monday. He said the majority of those cases are men who have sex with men, although the virus is not a sexually transmitted disease.

 

Monkeypox is rarely fatal, according to the CDC, and typically resolves within 2-4 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 can look like pimples or blisters on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body.

Close or intimate person-to-person contact, such as kissing, cuddling and sex, is a primary means of spreading monkeypox, according to the CDC. The virus also can be spread through contact with infectious rashes, scabs or bodily fluids or with items that are infected, such as clothing and bedding.

Villarreal said the Houston region initially received a little more than 5,000 vaccine doses last Friday, July 22, with the 3,500 kept by the city health department having already been administered to or reserved for people in high-risk groups. Vaccination appointments with the Houston Health Department are scheduled through Aug. 8, Villarreal said, with each recipient set to receive a second dose four weeks later to complete the series.

At this time, the vaccine is being administered only to Houston-area residents who have had contact with someone infected with monkeypox; recently attended an event or venue where there was high-risk exposure to someone with monkeypox or sex with anonymous or multiple partners; those who take pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV; and those who have been diagnosed with gonorrhea or syphilis within the last three months.

"If there's ample supply or expanded supply, once that happens, then we're able to open it up to some 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 such concerns with sexual partners. He said members of the medical community should be on the lookout for signs of monkeypox as well.

For more local information about 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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