Vaccine access for monkeypox (also known as MPV) continues to be extremely limited, but more doses are on the way, according to Public Health Seattle & King County health chief Dr. Jeff Duchin.
At a media briefing today, Duchin provided an update on infections, as well as guidance for avoiding the virus. His advice remains largely unchanged from the start of the outbreak. Be vigilant for new rashes, limit intimate skin-to-skin contact, and if you suspect that you’ve been exposed or think that you are showing symptoms, then quarantine immediately and seek medical care right away.
And also: Be patient. Health officials know you want the vaccine, but there’s only so much to go around.
“I know there is tremendous demand for this vaccine globally,” Duchin said. “We are in a bit of a bind.”
King County estimates that there are 20,000 people at high risk in this country, and another 20,000 at potential risk. But the county has only received 9,000 doses so far, which means that health providers have had to ration them to patients most in need. Cases continue to rise in King County, with the latest count at 183, largely (but not exclusively) among men who have sex with men.
If there is any good news, it’s that children appear to be at low risk. Out of 9,000 cases in the country, only two have been pediatric.
The latest vaccine shipment, which contained 4,400 doses, arrived on August 5. The health department is currently in the process of releasing the doses to providers. The state anticipates that the federal government will allow them to order more on August 15, with around 4,000 to 5,000 likely to arrive not long after.
“It’s particularly difficult right now when the need for vaccine far outstrips the supply,” Duchin said. “The US government had a supply of vaccine prior to the outbreak that was inadequate to meet the demands of this unanticipated outbreak, and when they went to order more … many other countries had already placed their orders with the sole manufacturer.”
When asked if American providers might be able to obtain vaccines from the countries with more ample supply, Duchin said that he wasn’t aware of any opportunities to request international aid.
King County is currently investigating a modified vaccination procedure that would allow doses to be split between multiple patients. Such a procedure requires specialized training and can’t be undertaken right away, but it might be an option in the coming weeks after further planning.
While we wait for more vaccines, the method most readily available for reducing viral spread is public education, Duchin said. You might not be able to get a shot now, but you can take stock of personal choices that can help keep the virus at bay: Monitor your skin for new rashes, reduce skin-to-skin contact, and quarantine if you suspect transmission.
“As more at-risk people learn … how to limit their risk, that will also have a very strong role in how the outbreak evolves,” Duchin said. “It will limit opportunities for the virus to move from person to person.”