Department of Health expands eligibility for monkeypox vaccine

Published 5:12 pm Thursday, September 29, 2022

More people are eligible to get the monkeypox vaccine in Central Virginia. On Tuesday, Sept. 27, officials from the Virginia Department of Health made the announcement, saying anyone with HIV/AIDS or a sexually transmitted infection can now get the shot.

“VDH is taking this step to expand eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine to ensure as many people at high risk of contracting this disease who want to get vaccinated can do so if they choose,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene.

As of Monday, Sept. 26, there were 464 reported cases of monkeypox in Virginia. More than half of those, 249, were in the Northern Health Region. That covers the Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William health districts. Out of the states across Virginia, 21 have required hospitalization.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

With those additions, anyone who meets one or more of the following conditions are eligible to get the monkeypox vaccine.

Any person, of any sexual orientation or gender, who have had anonymous or multiple (more than one) sexual partners in the past two weeks; or

Sex workers of any sexual orientation or gender; or

Staff, of any sexual orientation or gender, at establishments or events where sexual activity occurs; or

Any person, of any sexual orientation or gender, who is living with HIV/AIDS; or

Any person, of any sexual orientation or gender, diagnosed with any sexually transmitted infection in the past three months.

As of Sept. 26, there’s been 9,860 first doses of the two-dose vaccine given out. Overall, 4,948 people have been fully vaccinated against monkeypox.

WHAT IS MONKEYPOX?

Some residents may not have even heard of monkeypox yet. This is a contagious rash caused by the monkeypox virus. In most cases, it resolves without treatment. It is spread by close contact with an infected person. Close contact includes touching skin lesions, bodily fluids, or clothing or linens that have been in contact with an infected person. Spread can also occur during prolonged, face-to-face contact.

While anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone with monkeypox, many of those affected in the current global outbreak are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men. While this level of monkeypox activity is unexpected, the risk to the general population is low. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained contact with other people who have monkeypox.

The highest risk activity currently is having sex with multiple or anonymous partners; avoiding these activities greatly reduces one’s risk of catching or spreading monkeypox. Monkeypox does not spread from person to person from walking past someone who is infected or through casual conversation with someone who is infected. Because we are still learning about the vaccine’s effectiveness in the current outbreak, vaccinated individuals should continue to take steps to protect themselves from infection.