The federal government announced this week it obtained nearly 800,000 more doses of monkeypox vaccine to distribute to states and jurisdictions. So far 98 doses have been sent to Montana, up from 48 earlier this week.
In a press release Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it had acquired 786,000 doses of JYNNEOS vaccine, on top of a previous batch of 340,000 it already had.
Distribution to states and other jurisdictions is based on two main factors, according to a press release from the department. That includes the total population of at-risk people and the number of new cases in each jurisdiction.
So far Montana is one of three states that has not reported any confirmed cases; the other two are Wyoming and Vermont. There are 4,639 cases confirmed nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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“Our vaccine allocation strategy allows us to be responsive to where we are seeing cases now and helps us stay ahead of where this outbreak might go in the future,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in the press release. “With these additional doses, more will be available for those who are most in need as we work together (to) contain the outbreak.”
Starting Friday, states can order more doses of the monkeypox vaccine from the federal government. The Montana state health department said Thursday it would have more information early next week about Montana’s allocation.
“Making these additional doses of JYNNEOS available represents the latest step to support public health officials from states and jurisdictions in responding to the monkeypox outbreak,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell in the release. “These experts understand their communities and are helping to ensure equitable distribution.”
The 98 doses Montana has requested and received is lower than only North Dakota, at 95; Vermont at 86; Wyoming at 61; and South Dakota at 47, though that state has requested 151 total doses.
The increase in doses available brings the total Montana can request up to 750; it was previously 150.
In an adjustment to the allocation formula, HHS is moving from an approach that was based equally on case burden and the at-risk population to one that’s 75% case burden and 25% at-risk allocation “in order to be most responsive to those communities experiencing the greatest impacts of the virus,” according to a fact sheet released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the press release, HHS said it was “communicating regularly with community leaders, health care providers, and stakeholders in high-risk communities to raise awareness of the steps people can take to prevent monkeypox, as well as to increase access to tests, vaccines and treatments.”
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, according to the CDC.
It is part of the virus family that includes smallpox and has similar, but more mild symptoms, and is rarely fatal. It is not related to chickenpox.
Monkeypox first appeared in humans in 1970. Before this outbreak, it was mostly found in central and western African countries and most cases elsewhere were among people who had traveled in that region or came into contact with imported animals.
In Montana, the state health department’s Public Health Laboratory can provide PCR testing for monkeypox if a health care provider requests it. If a sample tests positive here, it would be sent to the CDC for additional testing to confirm a case.
The state health department says anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox should seek an evaluation from their doctor. Doctors should report any suspected cases to the local public health department.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a rash. The rash can look like pimples or blisters and appear on the face, in the mouth or on hands, feet, the chest, genitals or anus.
The rash goes through different stages before healing and illness lasts two to four weeks.
Monkeypox can spread through direct contact with the rash, scabs or body fluids. It can also spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged close contact, or during intimate physical contact.
People can get monkeypox from a scratch or bite from an infected animal, and also be passed to a fetus.
In a previous email, a spokesperson for the state health department said local health jurisdictions will work with the state health department to request and distribute vaccines, and that the state will follow CDC recommendations for who can get vaccinated. That focuses on people who have been exposed, as the vaccine can be effective after exposure to the virus. The CDC recommends a vaccine shot within four days of exposure. Becoming vaccinated is a two-shot process.