The Maryland Department of Health has expanded eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine as part of a statewide initiative to broaden access to the drug.
In addition to those who had been exposed to the disease, eligibility now includes those who have had multiple or unfamiliar sexual partners in the past two weeks and those who are aware of a sexual partner diagnosed with monkeypox in the past two weeks, the health department announced Thursday.
As of Sept. 16, Maryland had received 14,539 vials of the JYNNEOS vaccine from the federal government and had vaccinated more than 5,248 people, according to health department data.
The expansion of eligibility follows new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an increased supply of the vaccine, according to Dr. Peter DeMartino, director of the Maryland Department of Health Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau.
“Expanding eligibility will provide greater protection for individuals against MPX virus infection and reduce the risk of spread throughout the population,” DeMartino said in a statement.
As of Friday, Anne Arundel County had 35 cases, the fifth highest jurisdictional caseload in the state, according to the department’s website, while the state had at least 639 cases. The state health department announced Maryland’s first monkeypox case was identified June 16. The Anne Arundel Health Department identified the county’s first monkeypox case in early July. Symptoms include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever and chills.
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Before May of this year cases of monkeypox had mostly been seen in Africa, where the first case was identified in a human in 1970, according to the CDC. While it’s unclear where the disease comes from, the CDC notes on its website that experts believe African rodents and primates may carry it and pass it to humans.
Now that the disease has arrived in the U.S., it’s mostly being transmitted by close contact with an infected person, mainly between men who have sex with other men, Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman told The Capital last month.
In August, the FDA changed how the vaccine was to be administered. What was previously one dose of the vaccine could now be split into five, widening the pool of people who could get vaccinated.
Those interested in registering for the first dose of the vaccine can do so on the department of health website. The second dose will be coordinated for each resident by the provider of their first dose or their local health department. The vaccine is free to all in the state.
Starting this week, the department will begin testing eligible individuals for the disease. Those who want to be tested can call the department at 410-222-7256 or visit aahealth.org/monkeypox.
“Vaccination plays a critical role in Maryland’s comprehensive response to the MPX outbreak,” DeMartino said.
Anne Arundel County is currently offering vaccines by appointment only at 6701 Baymeadow Drive in Glen Burnie; Glen Burnie Health Center, 416 A St. SW, Glen Burnie; and Parole Health Center, 1950 Drew St., Annapolis,.