Baltimore Sun

Monkeypox vaccine in low supply

- By Giacomo Bologna

There are a lot of people who want the monkeypox vaccine in Baltimore right now, but city officials say there aren’t enough shots for everybody — and it’s unclear when more are coming.

Health Commission­er Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said at a Tuesday news conference that the city received 200 shots, a supply she described as “extremely limited.” Many of the vaccines already have been used or are scheduled to be administer­ed.

“I want to dispel the notion that there’s a stockpile of shots that aren’t being used,” Dzirasa said. “We were given 200 doses. And we’re actively working to distribute those 200 doses in an equitable way to the individual­s at highest risk of contractin­g and spreading monkeypox here in Baltimore.”

The federal government is controllin­g the supply of vaccines for monkeypox, a contagious disease that anybody can get

through close contact with an infected person. Monkeypox causes painful lesions, swollen lymph nodes, fevers and chills, and can require weeks of isolation and quarantine, but it’s rarely fatal. So far in America, the disease has been primarily spreading among men who have sex with other men.

Dzirasa said other states with higher community spread of monkeypox have

received more vaccine doses than Maryland.

A Maryland Department of Health spokespers­on said Monday the state has received 3,363 doses of the vaccine, which can be administer­ed before or after exposure, and distribute­d 3,000 of them.

It’s not clear why Baltimore received less than 7% of the doses despite having 10% of the state’s population and a larger at-risk population than many other communitie­s statewide.

Just under one in four of Maryland’s confirmed cases have occurred in the Baltimore area. According to the latest data from the CDC, Maryland has 87 confirmed cases of monkeypox, and Dzirasa said 21 of those cases are in the Baltimore area.

The state health department did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment on Baltimore’s vaccine allocation, given its population and cases.

Baltimore Assistant Health Commission­er Dr. Adena Greenbaum said that as with any contagious disease, the health department is concerned about undiagnose­d cases of monkeypox spreading in the community. She encouraged people to get tested if they suspect they have monkeypox.

Of the city’s 200 monkeypox vaccines, Dzirasa said 75 went to Chase Brexton Health Care, a longtime provider of health care to the LGBTQ community, 65 are being administer­ed at health department clinics, and 60 are reserved for close contacts of people with confirmed cases of monkeypox.

Chase Brexton planned to administer vaccines Tuesday and Wednesday after the city held pop-up registrati­on sites Saturday at three Baltimore bars.

“Our strategy is focused on reaching the truly marginaliz­ed, like the resident that’s dependent on transactio­nal sex to make rent, or the trans youth that doesn’t have a permanent place to live, or the individual­s on methamphet­amines that are having anonymous sex while using,” Dzirasa said. “These are examples of where the CDC says you should start, in terms of priority, with such a limited supply.”

With only 200 doses, Baltimore is seeing demand for the vaccine outpacing the supply.

“I would say that yes, we certainly have experience­d a very high demand for a vaccine,” Greenbaum said.

On Monday, Dzirasa, Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott and other city officials met with public health profession­als and community members about monkeypox in the city. A group of academics had written to city officials, asking for more transparen­cy on vaccine data in Baltimore.

Dzirasa said that to her knowledge, there are no confirmed juvenile cases of monkeypox in Maryland and that she’s in regular communicat­ion with Baltimore public school officials.

“In our last call, we did begin talking about what are the potential risks for monkeypox,” Dzirasa said. “We’ll continue to work with them closely, just as we have with COVID.”

Dzirasa said the city created a website (health. baltimorec­ pox) with informatio­n on the disease in Baltimore and has been rolling out a campaign on social media to raise awareness.

“It’s important to note that anyone is susceptibl­e to monkeypox if they come into contact with the virus, no matter your race, gender or sexual orientatio­n,” she said.

 ?? KIM HAIRSTON/BALTIMORE SUN ?? Baltimore Health Commission­er Dr. Letitia Dzirasa says demand outpaces supply of the monkeypox vaccine in the city.
KIM HAIRSTON/BALTIMORE SUN Baltimore Health Commission­er Dr. Letitia Dzirasa says demand outpaces supply of the monkeypox vaccine in the city.

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