TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As monkeypox cases continue to climb in Florida and nationwide, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced nearly 800,000 vaccine doses available for distribution.
According to the World Health Organization, men who have sex with men are most at risk right now of catching monkeypox. The WHO recommends that gay and bisexual men limit their number of sexual partners to protect themselves and help slow the spread of the virus.
“Historically, we didn’t see such widespread outbreaks of monkeypox,” Dr. Jacqueline Sherbuk from USF Health Division of Infectious Diseases said.
Dr. Sherbuk said more research is needed to understand why monkeypox is spready so rapidly now.
The CDC reports 332 cases in Florida, the third most in the nation.
In the Tampa Bay area, Pinellas County has the most, 14, followed by Hillsborough County with 8. “The Tampa Bay area it has some cases,” not quite as many as other areas like South Florida,” Dr. Sherbuk said, “But we do expect over time we’ll see more in this area.”
Dr. Sherbuk said the distribution of 786,000 vaccine doses from the federal government is much needed. “We certainly don’t have it under control at the moment,” she said. “Cases are still going up around the country and any more vaccine is welcome right now. Our vaccine supply is limited.”
Originally developed for smallpox, the FDA in 2019 approved the Jynneos two-dose vaccine for people 18 and older who are risk of exposure to monkeypox. “These vaccines have since been tested in animal models and show they may be effective for monkeypox as well, which is in a similar family of viruses as smallpox,” Dr. Sherbuk explained.
Monkeypox is rarely deadly, but it causes painful lessons and sores.
While health officials stress anyone can catch monkeypox from close contact with someone who is infected, so far the vast majority of cases are spreading among men in the LGBTQ community.
“It’s important to know which groups are being affected so that we can target our interventions, things like vaccines, to the right groups that are at the highest risk of being exposed to monkeypox,” Dr. Sherbuk said.
Earlier this month, the Florida Department of Health announced it was receiving a shipment of 25,000 doses from the national stockpile. It is unclear how many of the nearly 800,000 doses will be distributed to Florida.