Aug 16, 2022 - News

State's plan to split monkeypox vaccines will only go so far

Illustration of 5 vaccine bottles, 4 are empty. 
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Washington health care providers are splitting doses of monkeypox vaccine to stretch the state's limited supply, but it still may not be enough to inoculate everyone at high risk of infection.

Why it matters: Public health officials estimate roughly 77,000 people statewide are at high risk of contracting monkeypox — yet the state's vaccine allotment from the federal government so far is about 24,000 doses.

The latest: Health providers in Washington have started dividing doses and injecting them under the top layer of skin, following an emergency use authorization issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week.

  • The shallower, intradermal injection "will increase the total number of doses available for use by up to five-fold," according to the FDA.

Yes, but: State health officials say some clinics have not been able to obtain a full five doses from each vaccine vial, making it unclear how many can ultimately be produced from the state's limited supply.

  • Some patients shouldn't receive the smaller, intradermal dose, limiting the number of doses that can be divided and stretched between patients, the health department said.
  • Minors and people with certain types of scarring, for instance, will still require a full dose, according to local health officials.

Zoom in: A spokesperson for Public Health — Seattle & King County told Axios in an email that given those factors, "our current dose allocation of 9,160 will not meet the need fully."

  • "More doses are expected soon, but we are also keeping second vaccinations in mind," the spokesperson, Christina Bradic, wrote in an email to Axios.
  • Of note: The monkeypox vaccine is supposed to be administered in a two-dose series.

By the numbers: As of Monday, the state health department recorded 282 cases of monkeypox, with 240 in King County.

Background: While the current outbreak has largely been concentrated among men who have sex with men, anyone can contract monkeypox from close contact with someone who has been infected.

  • Symptoms can include a fever, headache and rash, which may appear anywhere on the body.

What's next: So far, public health officials have focused their vaccination efforts on those who have had confirmed exposure to the virus or who may have recently been exposed.

  • Broad, preemptive vaccinations aren't underway because of the limited supply.
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