Monkeypox Vaccines: Who is Eligible to Receive Shots? Illinois Announces Change in Guidance

Even as more cases are reported, there are still limited numbers of treatments and doses that are currently available, and as a result, it is not recommended at this time that the general population seek vaccinations

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With monkeypox cases rising, many are looking for immunization, but with limited supply across the country, eligibility is limited.

In Illinois, health officials announced changes to state guidelines this week.

The virus has thus far primarily targeted men who have sex with men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but there have been instances of the virus being transmitted to women and to children.

Even as more cases are reported, there are still limited numbers of treatments and doses that are currently available, and as a result, it is not recommended at this time that the general population seek vaccinations.

"We don't have a lot of actual vaccines yet," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Thursday. "Like it is literally a supply and demand issue. 

Here's what to know.

Who is Recommended to Receive the Vaccine?

The CDC is not recommending widespread vaccination against the virus, but there are specific groups of individuals that are recommended to seek out the treatment. Those groups include:

-Close personal contacts of individuals who have contracted monkeypox

-Individuals who may have been exposed to the virus

-Individuals who may have increased risk of being exposed to the virus, including those who perform laboratory testing to diagnose the virus

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Thursday "that due to limited supplies of the vaccine for monkeypox virus, the state is prioritizing the first dose of the vaccine for those eligible."

"The change is intended to ensure that as many individuals are vaccinated as soon as possible with a first shot in order to reduce the spread of the virus," the department said.

As part of the new guidance, the health department said public health officials were being advised that unless someone is at an elevated risk category, they should only receive an initial dose of the vaccine until more supplies is received.

"The goal is to, as quickly as possible, after [someone with monkeypox has] been diagnosed, vaccinate everybody who has been in close contact with them, especially any intimate partners. And then ideally, if you do that successfully, their contacts, you're able to break that chain and you don't see further transmission."

How Can I Get Access to the Vaccine?

According to public health officials, the vaccine is only available in limited supplies to states and cities that are experiencing a high-case burden.

Residents in those areas are encouraged to speak to their local health departments about vaccine eligibility.

How Many Doses of the Vaccine Have Been Delivered So Far?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 19,000 doses of the vaccine have been shipped to Chicago so far. Other areas of Illinois have received nearly 7,500 doses of the vaccine as of Tuesday, according to officials.

In all, more than 310,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered to local health departments.

Chicago over the weekend received 15,000 doses from the federal government and the city is expected another shipment soon, with the exact numbers not yet known.

"Our team was in over the weekend right away, started packaging up... and we've been distributing every day thousands just over the last few days," Arwady said. "Our goal is to get these out quickly."

Are There Other Treatments Available if I Contract the Virus?

If an individual contracts the virus, recovery is often possible without specific treatments being required.

There is an FDA-approved antiviral that can be described for patients who are more at-risk of serious illness. That treatment is known as TPOXX, and according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the medication can be ordered from the Strategic National Stockpile, but must be sent to local health departments.

According to officials in Kane County, areas with confirmed cases of the virus are automatically being sent doses of TPOXX. More information can be found through your local health department.

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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