Maryland has been allocated 682 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine, with 200 of the doses coming to Baltimore City, considered one of three jurisdictions in the state at high risk from the virus, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
Monkeypox has been a growing concern in the United States since the outbreak began in May in Europe. There are now about 700 cases nationally and 14 in Maryland, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some cases have likely gone undetected for a lack of testing.
The state health department said it will also give two other high-risk counties in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Montgomery and Prince George’s, 200 doses each and reserve 82 for other counties as needed.
The state expects to receive more vaccine from the federal government in coming weeks.
Federal officials announced June 28 that they would begin distributing vaccine as quickly as possible, tapping strategic reserves for doses and ordering that more be packaged and produced. A total of 1.6 million Jynneos doses are expected nationwide by the end of the year, with the most headed to areas with the highest cases, including California, New York and Washington, D.C.
The Jynneos vaccine is the newest vaccine approved to prevent infection with monkeypox before and after exposure to the virus. An older vaccine first developed for smallpox comes with serious side effects and will play a lesser role in the response.
Monkeypox is normally rare, and not normally seen outside Africa, where it’s endemic and passed from animals. But it has been spreading more quickly through close human contact in recent weeks and most heavily affecting gay and bisexual men.
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Maryland health officials say they have been using contact tracing to identify people potentially exposed to the virus, and they have been offered the still-limited supply of vaccine through local health departments.
Health officials have been encouraging people who have fever, swollen lymph nodes and the telltale monkeypox rash to consult a medical provider. Those providers have been given guidance on recognizing monkeypox and been encouraged to seek testing that is now more widely available for people whether they have traveled to Europe or not.
Activists and those infected have been calling for better access to testing and vaccines, as well as information.
Before it was clear when and how much vaccine would be coming to the state, Arinze Ifekauche, spokesman for the Baltimore Health Department, said officials there were monitoring monkeypox closely.
“We encourage individuals who think they may have been exposed to monkeypox or who have symptoms consistent with monkeypox to call their provider for guidance and testing,” he said.
He noted the effort to expand testing capacity, with the CDC recently partnering with five commercial laboratories, including Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Sonic Healthcare. They require a medical provider to request a test.
Ifekauche also noted the CDC has also posted information about monkeypox on its website.