Monkeypox vaccines scarce in the Tri-State as frustration with lack of access increases

So far, 4,253 doses have been shipped to Ohio
Spain Monkeypox
Posted at 8:04 PM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 20:04:43-04

CINCINNATI — Demand for monkeypox vaccines is far outpacing supply, creating frustration and anxiety among people in the Tri-State. But more doses will come next week, with an allocation expected in Hamilton County for the first time.

Don't expect many doses initially, though. A spokesman for the Hamilton County Health Department said it expects fewer than 100 doses next week.

That department said Friday it would establish a survey on Monday to put interested people on a waiting list for vaccines, which would be prioritized by risk factor. It will then notify them when a dose is available. The department initially did something similar with the COVID-19 vaccine. The spokesman said the survey would likely look like others in Ohio and nationwide, asking about sexual contact and partners.

Data updated on Aug. 3 showed Ohio had been allocated17,809 doses of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine. Those doses are coming from the national stockpile, which is doled out by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Of that, 4,253 doses have been shipped to Ohio.

A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health said Friday 457 doses had been given to 450 people in Ohio. The monkeypox vaccine is a two-dose regimen.

"We've spent the last two years in a global pandemic hopefully learning about public health and how best to respond to these things and what it seems is that we've not learned a lot of lessons," said Dr. Christian Gausvik, a physician with The Christ Hospital.

Dr. Gausvik said there is a growing frustration with lack of access to vaccines as cases rise. As of Friday, there were more than 7,500 cases nationally. Indiana reported 68 cases, Ohio reported 38 and Kentucky reported nine.

The Biden administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday.

"I have a handful of patients who planned to get theirs while traveling somewhere or have planned to travel to get the vaccine," Dr. Gausvik said. "It's frustrating that that's the kind of discussion we're having."

Health departments in Northern Kentucky have been administering first doses of the vaccine, but it was unclear on Friday how many doses NKY Health had been allocated or had given out. HHS reported Kentucky's allocation of the JYNNEOS vaccine at 6,310 with 1,700 shipped to the state. Indiana has been allocated 11,985 doses with 6,752 shipped.

"We've got a couple thousand doses of vaccine sitting with the department of health that have not been used, and I think that's a real fail on the part of prevention and keeping Ohioans safe with access to this vaccine," Dr. Gausvik said.

Monkeypox is currently spreading predominantly among men who have sex with men, though Dr. Gausvik noted the virus can affect anyone. It is spread through prolonged contact and is not a sexually-transmitted disease. That focus on one community — and the bias that often is associated with it — may be impacting testing and reported case numbers.

"I think because of the limited testing ability, and I think in some part due to our bias of who this disease affects, we may not be testing widely enough to capture all the case numbers," Dr. Gausvik said.

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