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The Biden administration will begin sending tens of thousands of vaccine doses to clinics nationwide to contain a record monkeypox outbreak in the US, which many experts say far exceeds the official count of 306 cases, officials said Tuesday.
The vaccination strategy, which officials have characterized as part of a wider push for more testing and public awareness of monkeypox, will focus on distributing doses to states with the highest number of confirmed cases of the disease, which is spread through close contact that can lead to fever, pain, and a visible rash. Gay and bisexual men have disproportionately contracted the virus and remain particularly vulnerable to infection, fueled by celebrations during Pride Month, public health experts warn.
In most cases, monkeypox symptoms go away within a few weeks. But for those who are pregnant, children, and those with weak immune systems, the disease can lead to medical complications, including death, according to the World Health Organization.
The delivery plan includes the immediate distribution of approximately 28,000 courses of the existing supply of Jynneos vaccine, the only vaccine federal regulators have approved specifically to prevent monkeypox. Officials also said they were expanding access to the vaccines previously limited to those with known monkeypox exposure.
“We now recommend that vaccines be provided to both people with known exposure to monkeypox who have been contacted by public health, and to people who have been recently exposed to monkeypox, but who may not be identified through case studies and contact tracing,” Rochelle said. . Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She added that people at risk include those who have close physical contact with a person diagnosed with monkeypox and men who have sex with men who have had multiple sex partners in a “location” with monkeypox spreading.
She said people should be vaccinated within two weeks of possible exposure, “and the sooner you can be vaccinated after exposure, the better.”
The country’s strategic national stockpile has 32,000 courses of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine in its inventory, said David Boucher, a senior official in the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees the stock.
During initial distribution, vaccine allocation will be based on each state’s confirmed cases as a ratio of its population considered to be at risk for the disease. Men who regularly have sex with other men are most at risk. The first batch of recipients includes Hawaii, Massachusetts, Utah, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, California, Colorado, and Florida, and DC, according to a draft distribution plan reviewed by The Washington Post.
More doses of Jynneos will be distributed later in July after the United States receives additional vaccine courses.
US officials will also continue to make more than 100 million doses of ACAM2000 available, an older vaccine approved to prevent smallpox. Although the vaccine is considered effective against monkeypox, the CDC has warned that it can cause serious side effects and cannot be used for people with severely weakened immune systems or eczema.
“The CDC will work with state, territorial, and local health departments requesting the ACAM2000 vaccine to ensure individuals are fully informed about the benefits and risks before receiving the vaccine,” the White House said in a fact sheet released Tuesday. Was distributed.
Top officials in the Biden administration also praised their recent efforts to expand monkeypox testing to thousands of locations across the country as officials work to identify possible infections.
“I strongly encourage all health care providers to have a high clinical suspicion of monkeypox in their patients,” Walensky said. “Patients with a suspicious rash should be tested.”
Public health experts had criticized the Biden administration’s response to the outbreak, saying the slow rollout of tests and vaccines parallels some of the mistakes made in early 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic threatened the United States for the first time. For example, the administration initially limited testing to a few dozen public health labs, blaming some patients and doctors for delays in getting test results. Experts also warned that the strategy hampered the early detection of some infections and led to additional spread, increasing the likelihood that the virus — which has been popping up repeatedly in central and western Africa for decades — also become endemic in the United States.
David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of SOA directors, continued those criticisms Tuesday, calling the latest announcement a “confusing mess” that failed to explain the formula for distributing vaccines or how that could change as more vaccines become available. Come.
“There are profound questions about how they will allocate limited vaccines to which jurisdictions, and states and local communities need a coordinated federal plan,” Harvey said. “We need to reach people at risk for monkeypox and conduct widespread vaccine efforts for gays and other men who have sex with men.”
Proponents are also frustrated that the White House continues to rely on ACAM2000, considered less effective in fighting monkeypox, as officials wait for doses of the newer Jyennos vaccine from abroad, including more than 1 million doses stored in Bavarian Nordic, the vaccine manufacturer in Denmark. The Food and Drug Administration still needs to inspect the facility before those doses can be shipped to the United States, said two people who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to comment. The White House did not answer questions about whether the FDA had inspected the facility.
PrEP4ALL and Partners for Health, a pair of public health organizations that have pressured state and federal officials to respond more quickly to monkeypox, urged the White House on Tuesday to take steps to accelerate vaccine production, such as setting up a manufacturing network. That meet the global need.
“We must not allow the same failures in vaccine production and distribution that hampered the global COVID-19 response to fail to contain the current monkeypox outbreak,” the groups wrote in a letter to senior officials. Biden officials shared with The Post.
“What’s scary about it is that [monkeypox] is much smaller than covid,” says James Krellenstein, co-founder of PrEP4ALL. “We have over a million doses of an FDA-approved vaccine for the prevention of monkeypox. And the US government can’t figure out how to get it out of the freezers in Denmark — doses it owns — when there’s rampant spread in the gay community. We will fall if this is a test run to prepare for a pandemic.”