Aug 5, 2022 - News

More monkeypox vaccines are coming to Washington, but not enough

Vaccine Monkeypox

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Another 6,900 monkeypox vaccine doses are en route to Washington state and could start arriving by this weekend — but health officials acknowledge it won't be enough to meet the need.

Why it matters: The number of confirmed monkeypox cases in Washington has roughly doubled every seven to eight days, with 166 cases reported as of Aug. 3, public health officials told reporters Thursday.

By the numbers: All told, state health officials have ordered 13,700 monkeypox vaccine doses so far, 6,800 of which the state has already received.

  • But in King County alone, health officials estimate that 40,000 people are at high or elevated risk of exposure to the virus. Nearly 90% of the state's monkeypox cases are in King County.
  • Even once the state receives the roughly 10,000 additional doses it is expecting between now and early September, the total will fall far short of safeguarding everyone at risk.
  • Supplies of the vaccine are limited, with states' allotments set by the federal government.

State of play: For now, Washington is focusing its limited vaccine supply on people who have had confirmed cases of monkeypox or exposure to people with the virus, said Michele Roberts, an assistant health secretary who directs the state health department's immunization teams.

  • The state is also focusing on distributing first doses, as opposed to administrating second doses of the two-dose regimen, she said.

What they're saying: "While we work to build up vaccine supplies, it's important to protect yourself and those around you," Roberts said.

  • "If you notice a rash please keep it covered, seek medical attention and avoid close contact with others until the rash is gone."

Catch up quick: Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease.

  • Although the current outbreak has been largely concentrated among men who have sex with men, health officials say anyone can become infected through close contact.
  • That can include kissing, or potentially even touching linens or clothing used by someone who was infected.
  • The illness is characterized by flu-like symptoms and a rash that turns into raised bumps, which can appear anywhere on the body.

The bottom line: "We do not have enough vaccine to open up broadly to the whole LGBTQ community or to those at highest risk at this point," Roberts said. "As more vaccine becomes available, we'll be opening up more broadly."


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