More people are now eligible for the monkeypox vaccine, the state health department said Monday.
People who have been in close physical contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox in the past 14 days remain eligible, as before.
But now the vaccine is available to men who have sex with men, or with transgender individuals, who report any of the following in the last 90 days:
▪ Having multiple or anonymous sex partners
▪ Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection
▪ Receiving HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the medicine used to prevent HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“What we’ll be moving to is men who have sex with men and have had more than one partner in the last 90 days instead of 14 [days],” said Kody Kinsley, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, in an interview with The News & Observer.
“We’re trying to broaden the language a little bit so we can continue to make sure we are getting ahead in preventing this virus from spreading,” Kinsley said. “As we continue … to get more availability of vaccines, we will continue to expand eligibility.”
Monkeypox cases in NC
As of Monday afternoon, North Carolina has 34 confirmed monkeypox cases.
NCDHHS released demographic data Thursday, when there were 24 cases in the state. All were among men between 18 and 50. Fifteen of them, or 63%, were Black, and the other nine, or 37%, were white. None of the reported cases were among Hispanic men.
Sexual orientation and gender identity were not disclosed. However, the department’s monkeypox website states that cases “have predominantly been in men who have sex with men, consistent with findings from other jurisdictions.”
The department will not disclose sexual orientation and gender identity data, until more cases are confirmed, in order to protect the privacy of those who have had their cases confirmed, Kinsley said.
“We’re still describing their status as ‘a man who has sex with men’ qualitatively because we believe there has to be some ambiguity here to protect people’s privacy,” he said. “What we’ll probably change our website to say is ‘nearly all cases in North Carolina are in men who have sex with men.’”
Still, Kinsley, who is gay, asserted that the disease can affect anyone. The department’s communications also aim to discourage North Carolinians from stigmatizing affected groups, like the LGBTQ community.
Where to get vaccinated?
Vaccine availability is very limited in North Carolina.
Currently, only seven local health departments and some HIV clinics have received vaccines as part of the phase 1 allocation of the Jynneos vaccine against monkeypox.
People who are eligible can call their local health department to make an appointment to receive the vaccine at no cost.
• Buncombe (828) 250-5300
• Durham (919) 560-9217
• Forsyth (336) 703-3100
• Mecklenburg (980) 314-9400
• New Hanover (910) 798-6800
• Pitt (252) 902-2300
• Wake (919) 250-4462
‘Public health emergency’
NCDHHS has said monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious, viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash that includes bumps that are initially filled with fluid before scabbing over, The News & Observer previously reported.
Monkeypox can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, having contact with an infectious rash, through respiratory secretions or through bodily fluids.
The World Health Organization has officially declared the monkeypox outbreak a global public health emergency. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently confirmed the first two cases of monkeypox in children.
This story was originally published July 25, 2022 11:51 AM.
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