Dallas County expands eligibility for monkeypox vaccine following influx of doses

The Dallas County Health Department expanded its eligibility criteria for the monkeypox vaccine Wednesday morning following an influx of vaccine doses from the federal government.

Men who have sex with men who have met partners through a website, app, or social event, such as a bar or party, in the past two weeks are now eligible to receive the JYNNEOS vaccine.

Previously, only people with known skin-to-skin contact with someone with the virus or men who have sex with men if they had multiple or anonymous partners in the past two weeks.

Dallas County received an additional 5,000 vials of the monkeypox vaccine between Friday and Monday, which equates to up to 25,000 doses when administered by a new method that only requires one-fifth of a vial.

“We are catching up with everyone who has called our hotline, made appointments and joined the waiting list. We have reduced our waiting list and our capacity continues to increase, so we are happy to be able to have some vaccines to open it up a little more, ”said Dr. Philip Huang, senior health official of the county of Dallas.

Dallas County reported 348 confirmed cases Tuesday, accounting for the largest portion of monkeypox cases in the state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,048 cases in Texas on the same day.

Nationally, there are 12,689 cases of monkeypox, with New York, California and Florida reporting the highest statewide case rates at 2,620, 1,1945 and 1,268 respectively.

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Huang said the county’s still relatively strict qualifications to receive the two-dose vaccine stem from the limited number of doses available due to the nationwide vaccine shortage. Dallas County Health and Human Services looked to other areas, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, to decide eligibility requirements.

Some other cities have much broader definitions of vaccine qualification. In Houston and Harris County, people over the age of 18 may be eligible to get the vaccine if they have HIV, have been diagnosed with chlamydia in the past year, have been diagnosed with gonorrhea or early syphilis in the last three months or if they are on PrEP, an HIV prevention medicine.

Harris County had 327 total cases as of Monday. County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted Tuesday that a child under the age of 2 tested presumptively positive for the smallpox virus.

“At the end of the day, we’re trying to attract high-risk people, and we don’t want people who are just worried about it but not high risk,” Huang said. “Even with the vaccine we have, and we have more, it’s still not an unlimited supply, and we want that to matter.”

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the new vaccination method in an attempt to stretch short-term vaccination treatment. Now, smaller doses can be injected between layers of skin rather than under the skin.

The expanded eligibility requirements come less than two weeks after Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued an emergency declaration due to the monkeypox outbreak. Jenkins said the county is using the statement to procure more vaccine doses.

Texas Department of State Health Services will likely receive more doses over the next week for distribution statewide, department spokesman Chris Van Deusen said Monday.

Monkeypox is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact or through contact with contaminated materials like bedding or clothing. It causes flu-like symptoms and a blistering rash that may be located on or near the genitals.

Although the majority of cases in this outbreak have occurred in men who have sex with men, the virus can infect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or age.

Dallas County residents who qualify for the vaccine can call the Health Department‘s monkeypox hotline at 972-692-2780. Callers should try the hotline again if the phone disconnects due to high call volume, according to the health department’s website.

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