|The Houston Health Department (HHD) on Friday received a shipment of 5,024 doses of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine. The department will retain 3,516 doses and provide 1,508 doses to Harris County Public Health.
People who are contacts or presumed contacts at high risk for exposure will be prioritized for vaccinations.
The delivery of the doses – allocated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of State Health Services – will allow more vaccine to become available for Houston and Harris County residents at the highest risk of disease.
Due to the limited nationwide supply, the monkeypox vaccine has not been widely available, and health officials currently do not recommend widespread vaccination.
The allocation will enable the department to serve approximately 1,758 people since monkeypox vaccination is a two-dose series, four weeks apart. The department will work with community providers to assure appropriate distributions of the limited vaccine supply.
“While the threat of monkeypox to Houston’s general population remains low, we welcome this vaccine shipment and look forward to receiving more as long as there is a need in the community,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I have asked our health department to remain vigilant in its work to educate and advocate on behalf of individuals considered most at-risk.”
“Our department has for weeks strongly advocated for an increase in the supply of monkeypox doses dedicated to the Houston area,” said Stephen Williams, the department’s director. “The shipment represents a significant step forward in protecting people at highest risk for this disease in our community.”
The department announced Houston’s first confirmed case of monkeypox June 18. The case count rose gradually over the following weeks and currently totals 36. None of Houston’s monkeypox cases have required hospitalization.
Due to the limited vaccine supply over the last several weeks, the department has focused on identifying cases and performing case investigations and contact tracing to identify contacts to ensure people are vaccinated and reduce the spread of the virus.
HHD has also been engaged in efforts to assure that organizations and medical providers are educated about monkeypox and aware of the current processes and systems for managing suspected cases and contacts.
Outreach and education initiatives undertaken by the department over the last few weeks include the sponsoring of a monkeypox community town hall for community-based organizations, non-profit agencies, and health advocates, distribution of educational materials at various community events such as the Pride Houston Festival and Parade, and education sessions and support to area Federally Qualified Health Centers.
The department organized a targeted mobile vaccination clinic over the Fourth of July weekend to vaccinate suspected contacts of two confirmed cases. The department’s staff administered 125 doses at the mobile clinic.
Monkeypox is rare and doesn’t spread easily between people without close, personal, skin-to-skin contact.
Symptoms include a rash or sores that look like pimples or blisters, fever, headache, weakness, chills and swollen lymph nodes.
Monkeypox can spread from person to person through prolonged face-to-face contact, intimate contact, and or close contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. Contact with items such as clothing or linens that previously touched the rash or body fluids is another way monkeypox spreads.
The illness usually lasts two to four weeks. It can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash fully heals, and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
People who suspect that they have monkeypox symptoms such as new unexplained rash or sores need to contact their doctor to set up a screening appointment.
The department plans to distribute vaccines to partnering providers over the next few days. It will provide vaccinations to referred clients who meet the criteria in the interim.