A physician assistant prepares a syringe with the monkeypox vaccine for a patient during a vaccination clinic. Photo by Mary Altaffer/AP.

The Maryland Department of Health recently broadened monkeypox vaccine eligibility requirements to reach more residents. At the same time, the state’s top infectious disease official says cases are trending downward. Maryland health clinics began offering the monkeypox vaccine to residents who are at high risk on Sept. 19, not just those who have been exposed to the disease within the prior two weeks.

Individuals who have more than one sex partner, men who have sex with men and immunocompromised people are now eligible to get the vaccine under the new guidance.

Peter DeMartino, the Director of the Maryland Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau, said that the state has entered a new phase in its monkeypox response strategy.

“Pre-exposure prophylaxis is really about those who may have been exposed, but also those who might anticipate exposures,” DeMartino said.

The focus is now to vaccinate anyone who may be at risk for exposure to curb the spread, he said.

“We really are working with our local health departments who know their communities best,” he said.

Health departments statewide should have enough monkeypox vaccines for any resident who is at high risk of exposure or who has been exposed, he said.

Monkeypox is a virus that spreads between people through direct contact with skin lesions. Symptoms may include a fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and potentially rashes and lesions on the face and hands. Some people may require hospitalization but most recover within a month.

Vaccines were in short supply earlier this year as the number of infections across Maryland grew from dozens to hundreds in a few months. The federal government shipped out shots to states in batches.

The monkeypox vaccine injected in a special way, known as intradermal injection, enables health officials to stretch how many doses can be administered from each vial.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.

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