Chicago Is Prioritizing First Dose of Monkeypox Vaccine to High-Risk Individuals

Limited vaccine supplies are complicating the city's immunization efforts as cases increase

monkeypox vaccine
Dado Ruvic | Reuters

As monkeypox cases surpass 300 and continue to rise in Chicago, the city's healthcare officials announced it will focus immunization efforts to individuals who are at high risk for the virus.

The Chicago Department of Public Health said that vaccine supply is extremely limited in the city and urged people to take added precautions to prevent spread of the virus, with 401 confirmed cases reported in Illinois as of Thursday morning — 85% of which are in Chicago.

So far, the city has received 18,707 doses of Jynneos vaccine, according to the IDPH. More than 15,000 doses are expected to reach the city soon from the federal government, along with another 2,600 from the state of Illinois.

Currently, you are eligible for the two-dose vaccine if you have had close physical contact with a confirmed case or if you are a man who has had sex with another man and have done so in a social or sexual venue. Additionally, those who received money in exchange for sex or have had sex with anonymous partners are eligible.

"We're doing everything we can to prioritize vaccinations for those most at risk, but the truth is, given the very limited national supply… there will be tens of thousands of individuals that are eligible and won't gain access," said Howard Brown Health CEO and President David Ernesto Munar.

CDPH noted that while delays are expected for some people who are eligible for their second doses, "the first dose provides the most substantial increase in antibodies that protect against the virus."

The CDC has recommended the Jynneos vaccine for men who report more than four male sexual partners within the past 14 days.

As of last week, the U.S. had distributed more than 156,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine to states and ramped up testing capacity. Many cities and states are offering vaccine doses to people with known or presumed exposure to the virus, including men who have sex with men and transgender, gender nonconforming or nonbinary residents with multiple sexual partners.

While a majority of cases have been in men who have sex with men, "the virus doesn't care how you identify," according to Dr. Amu Hazra, an infectious disease physician with Howard Brown Health.

Two children have been diagnosed with monkeypox in the U.S., health officials said Friday. In addition to the two pediatric cases, health officials said they were aware of at least eight women among the more than 2,800 U.S. cases reported so far.

“MPV is not a ‘gay disease’,” said CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “There’s nothing inherent in the biology of the virus that limits it to men who have sex with men. The virus spreads through tight-knit social networks; it does not discriminate.”

Person-to-person transmission is possible through "close physical contact with monkeypox sores, items that have been contaminated with fluids or sores (clothing, bedding, etc.), or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact," according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Arwady said most cases "are coming from much more intimate skin-to-skin contact or kissing" and noted that most casual contact and day-to-day activities - including things like shopping in crowded stores, going to a bar or coffee house, riding crowded CTA trains and buses, or using gym equipment or public restrooms - pose little to no risk for contracting MPV.

“Still, you should assess the risk factors of any activities. For instance, avoid sharing drinks or cigarettes or vape pens, and if you have sex with a new partner, take some time to talk about MPV, look for symptoms on your bodies, and if you have rashes, sores, or are feeling sick, don’t engage in any skin-to skin physical contact,” Arwady said. “And most importantly, if you start to exhibit symptoms, see a health provider and get tested right away. If you test positive, we can vaccinate your recent close contacts to help stop further spread of the virus.”

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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