The Biden administration on Tuesday announced what it called the “first phase” of a national monkeypox vaccination drive after doses ran out in New York City and Washington, DC — with 1.6 million doses contracted for distribution.
Just 306 cases of monkeypox are confirmed in the US, but the true caseload is believed to be higher and vaccines for smallpox are highly effective against the virus.
“To date, HHS has received requests from 32 states and jurisdictions, deploying over 9,000 doses of vaccine and 300 courses of antiviral smallpox treatments,” the White House said in a fact sheet.
“With today’s national monkeypox vaccine strategy, the United States is significantly expanding deployment of vaccines, allocating 296,000 doses over the coming weeks, 56,000 of which will be allocated immediately. Over the coming months a combined 1.6 million additional doses will become available.”
About 800,000 doses are being imported in July and early August and then another 500,000 doses were recently contracted for, an official told reporters on a White House call.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that doctors should increase testing for the virus.
“I strongly encourage all healthcare providers to have a high clinical suspicion for monkeypox among their patients,” Walensky said. “Patients presenting with a suspicious rash should be tested.”
The virus causes a rash, blisters and even death. Many early cases in Western Europe and the US are linked to sexual contact among gay men who attended large events.
Walensky said that the CDC is recommending the vaccine for “men who have sex with men who have been recently having multiple sex partners in a venue where there was known to be monkeypox or in an area where monkeypox is spreading.”
The federal guidance also recommends the vaccine for people who are known to have been exposed to the virus.