With monkeypox cases on the rise in the U.S., the Biden administration has declared the virus a public health emergency.
In Maryland, local health departments are working to vaccinate residents, but the vaccine supply from the federal government remains limited.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the public health emergency declaration is part of a strategy to combat the outbreak and nationally increase “production and availability of vaccines, expand testing capacity, and conduct outreach to stakeholders and members of the LGBTQI+ communities.”
Although the U.S monkeypox cases confirmed so far have been largely concentrated among men who have sex with men, public health experts emphasize that anyone can contract and spread the virus.
“This public health emergency will allow us to explore additional strategies to get vaccines and treatments more quickly out in the affected communities,” said national monkeypox response coordinator, Robert Fenton. “And it will allow us to get more data from jurisdictions so we can effectively track and attack this outbreak. We are applying lessons learned from the battles we’ve fought – from COVID response to wildfires to measles, and will tackle this outbreak with the urgency this moment demands.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 7,000 confirmed cases nationally, as of Friday, with 162 cases in the state of Maryland, and 42 of those cases in the Baltimore area.
This week, the Baltimore City Health Department offered 60 monkeypox vaccine appointments to eligible city residents, with reservations made by phone.
Within 90 minutes of phone lines turning on Thursday morning, all appointments were filled.
The Baltimore City Health Department reported that Baltimore initially received 200 doses of the vaccine, then a second shipment of 500 doses.
Of the 500 doses, 360 have been reserved for second doses; 80 for individuals who experience exposures as part of their jobs (such as health care workers), residents who received their first dose outside of Maryland, or as a preventative treatment for individuals who have been exposed; and the remaining 60 doses for the residents who were able to secure appointments via phone reservations.
“Everyone in the healthcare space in Maryland– providers, community advocates, elected officials, and state and local departments of health are advocating for more doses for our residents,” Baltimore City Commissioner of Health Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said at a July 26 press conference. “We are doing what we can to secure as many doses as we can – as quickly as possible. And we anticipate receiving more doses in future phases of distribution.”
Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that the federal government had given Maryland enough doses to vaccinate 3,202 patients with the two-dose monkeypox vaccine.
He said Maryland was working to obtain more doses, but that additional doses might not be available until fall.
“Since before our first monkeypox case was identified, the state has been mounting an aggressive response to this outbreak in coordination with local and regional partners,” Hogan said in a statement. “We will keep pressing the federal government to provide more vaccines to the states and do all we can to make resources available to those at risk.”
For local information on the disease and answers to frequently asked questions visit health.baltimorecity.gov/monkeypox.