Ohio working to distribute limited monkeypox vaccines; risk low for most

Ohio is working to distribute limited monkeypox vaccines as quickly as possible but the risk for most Ohioans remain low, said Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

As of Wednesday, the state has reported 75 total cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has reported 10,392 cases so far in the U.S., with the highest spread in New York, California, Texas and Georgia, Vanderhoff said.

Most of the cases in Ohio are in the state’s metropolitan areas, he added.

The monkeypox vaccine has a limited global supply, so doses are being allocated at the federal level.

“Because Ohio has had comparatively fewer cases than other states our allocations have likewise been less than some harder hit states,” Vanderhoff said. “But rest assured, Ohio continues to actively advocate for more vaccines and as more vaccines have become available has promptly placed orders for the maximum allocated doses.”

So far the state has received 4,253 doses of the vaccine. The vaccine is a two-dose shot, so Ohio has been able to vaccine just over 2,000 people so far.

Vanderhoff acknowledged the supply was not enough and said the state is focusing on distributing the vaccine as fast as possible to communities with the highest case counts and highest risk for spread. Currently, those communities are Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati,

This week, Ohio received a shipment of more than 5,400 doses and the state expects shipments to increase over the coming weeks.

The majority of people being impacted by monkeypox are men who are intimate with other men, Vanderhoff said. However, he stressed anyone can be infected with the virus if they have close contact with someone who has it.

OhioHealth Medical Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Joe Gastaldo noted the monkeypox vaccine does not guarantee a person will never get infected.

“No vaccine is 100%,” he said. “If you get the vaccine it’s not a monkeypox free pass.”

Gastaldo added people who get vaccinated may still get monkeypox, but have a milder case.

ODH is working with local health departments and health care providers to provide monkeypox testing and contract tracing, as well as reaching out to high-risk populations about how to avoid infection.

“The Ohio Department of Health considers very important to keep the public informed about this outbreak,” Vanderhoff said.

ODH has information on its website about the virus and is preparing a dashboard.

On Monday, Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County announced the county had confirmed its first case of monkeypox. While risk to the public is low at this time, the virus can be spread through direct contact with the rash, scabs or body fluids, according to Public Health.

Symptoms include flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. Other cases identified across the country were less likely to start with flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes, according to Public Health. The rash, which can look like pimples or blisters, may also stay in area of the body.

People who do not have symptoms cannot spread the virus.

Gastaldo said for someone to get infected with the moneybox virus it requires close intimate contact with somebody.

“Somebody has to have skin lesions that touch somebody else with prolonged exposure,” he said.

The virus can also spread through respiratory droplets, but it’s a prolonged exposure, Gastaldo added.

Tecovirimat, also known as TPOXX, is used to treat monkey pox. It’s available through the CDC and ODH for people with severe infections or those who are at a higher risk for severe disease, including those who are pregnant or breast feeding, people who are immunocompromised or have a serious HIV infection, Gastaldo said.

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