King County to split 1 monkeypox vaccine into 5 doses after FDA emergency clearance

King County’s monkeypox vaccine shortage isn’t going away, but a major announcement from the White House on Tuesday could change that.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorization to divide one dose of the monkeypox vaccine into five doses. The change means providers can now kick in a shallower place just under the skin instead of deeper in the arm. According to the White House monkeypox response team, the different firing location and lower dose were found to generate a similar immune response.

New figures from the Washington State Department of Health show cases of monkeypox are on the rise – now at 223 cases statewide. The majority of them are in King County, where there are 189 cases.

And as the virus spreads, people are increasingly worried.

“I just wanted to be careful, I hang out with a lot of people and I didn’t want to put myself in danger if I could just get a shot,” said Nick Pennington, who was at Harborview Medical Center hoping to get a shot. .

However, he discovered at the wellness clinic that he was not eligible.

“Based on the reason I didn’t qualify is that you have to be sexually active. And if not, you just have to come back in a week or two,” Pennington said.

“I know there’s a huge demand for this vaccine,” said Seattle-King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.

The Public Health – Seattle & King County website says the vaccine is in “scarce supply” and currently the eligibility criteria for the monkeypox vaccine are prioritized for those most at risk, including :

• People who have had sex, close intimate contact, or other high-risk close contact with someone who tested positive for monkeypox.

• People at high risk of recent exposure to monkeypox, including men who have sex with men who have recently had multiple sexual or intimate partners in close contact, including:

  • Gay, bisexual, or other men or transgender people who have sex with men AND

  • At least one of the following:

  • More than 10 sexual partners in the previous 3 months

  • History of early syphilis or gonorrhea within the past year

  • Methamphetamine use in the past month

  • Attending a public bath, other public sex venue, or group sex (sex involving 3 or more people at the same time) in the past 3 months

  • Experiencing homelessness/unstable housing AND currently living in a congregate setting AND having had sexual activity in the previous 3 months.

“I didn’t think it was going to be what it was,” Pennington said of the eligibility requirements.

Duchin said that currently the county has only received 11% of the monkeypox vaccine it hopes to get.

But the changes announced by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would increase the reach of the vaccine fivefold.

“This is a game-changer in terms of our response and our ability to get ahead of the virus,” said Robert Fenton, White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator.

The current method uses a vial, or dose, which is injected into your arm. The new method uses a smaller needle and a provider would deliver a shallower injection, injecting a fifth of a vial just below your top layer of skin.

The monkeypox response team said studies have found that the shallower shot using less vaccine generates a similar immune response.

“We encourage jurisdictions to use the alternative assay method as soon as possible,” Fenton said.

Duchin said Tuesday afternoon that with the announcement just made, he is still awaiting additional guidance from the CDC — for example, whether the smaller needles will be provided. Some will also need to be trained to perform the shallower shot.

“I doubt we can adopt this new way of doing things this weekend, but I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question,” Duchin said.

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