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Hundreds of Hoosiers receive monkeypox vaccine at state health department clinics

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Towfiqu Barbhuiya
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Federal health officials recommend vaccines for people who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past two weeks got monkeypox, people who had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks in an area with known cases, and those whose jobs may expose them to monkeypox.

Updated 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16

Hundreds of Hoosiers received the monkeypox vaccine at clinics hosted by the Indiana Department of Health in recent days.

About a hundred people received the monkeypox vaccine at clinics held over the weekend in Tippecanoe County. More than 200 people received the vaccine at Marion County’s clinic Monday. And just over 300 people received the vaccine at a clinic in Allen County Friday night.

As of Aug. 16, there are 84 confirmed cases of monkeypox across the state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Due to limited supplies, the vaccine is currently reserved for those at highest risk of contracting the virus, said Melissa McMasters, administrator of the Marion County Public Health Department’s immunization and infectious disease program.

“We want to make sure when someone's actually exposed to a case of monkeypox, if we can get that vaccine to them within four days, we can really lessen the symptoms and possibly even eliminate them having the infection,” McMasters said.

The CDC reccomends vaccination for people who’ve been exposed, as well as people who had a sexual partner in the past two weeks diagnosed with monkeypox, people who have had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks in an area with known cases, and people whose job may expose them to monkeypox, like laboratory workers who handle orthopoxviruses.

While the nationwide supply of monkeypox vaccines is limited, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a method to allow a smaller amount of the JYNNEOS vaccine to be administered, which could increase the number of doses available in a single vial. McMasters said the alternate injection method has indeed expanded the amount of vaccine available.

Normally, a one-dose vial would be administered to one person subcutaneously administered, into the fatty tissue.

“But now they have allowed for five doses per vial, and that's administered intradermally,” or between layers of skin, McMasters said. “That requires a much smaller amount of vaccine. So we've been able to stretch the vaccine and we'll continue to be able to stretch the vaccine as the outbreak grows.”

Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Greg Loomis said outreach and education for high-risk community groups is important to prevent spread of infection.

Loomis says he has worked with Lafeytte Pride, Purdue Universty’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Center, and sex workers to increase awarness about monkeypox and the vaccine.

While the World Health Organization identified most monkeypox cases globally in men who have sex with men, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted infection. It spreads through close skin-to-skin contact, such as touching a lesion or exchanging saliva, or touching items or surfaces shared with an infected person. Anyone can get it.

“The worst, the worst thing you can do in public health is stigmatize a group,” Loomis said. “It's essentially the death knell to taking care of those people in an efficient and respectful way."

McMasters said more monkeypox vaccine clinics will be scheduled. Click here to pre-register.

This story has been updated to include vaccinations administered in Allen County.

Copyright 2022 WFYI Public Media

Darian Benson is a reporter based at WFYI in Indianapolis. An Indy native, she is eager to report on public health in her hometown. Darian graduated with a journalism degree from Indiana Unviersity- Purdue University Indianapolis. Previously, she covered city and public policy for WFYI and statewide public health for Indiana Public Broadcasting.