HOUSTON – As cases continue to rise, Houston and Harris County will expand eligibility criteria to include others who may be at high risk of contracting the monkeypox virus.
The Houston Health Department on Tuesday will switch to intradermal monkeypox vaccinations, an injection just under the skin, and expand eligibility criteria to the estimated 26,000 people living with HIV in Houston and Harris County, officials said in a news release.
The department has reportedly vaccinated 2,942 people, injecting the medication into the tissue layer between the skin and muscle. Changing to intradermal administration of the JYNNEOS vaccine follows revised clinical guidance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
According to the department, more than 800 people received their first doses this past weekend at a special clinic that the department organized to progress quickly through booked vaccination appointments. The department has also coordinated with local physicians to ensure vaccination for another 242 people, the release said.
The department said they have advocated for additional vaccines from the federal government. The federal government has reportedly allotted 16,780 doses in separate shipments for Houston and Harris County. This week, the department expects to receive a second shipment of about 10,100 doses. It received the first shipment totaling 6,740 doses on August 2.
The monkeypox vaccination regimen is two doses given four weeks apart. The vaccine has not been widely available nationwide and widespread vaccination is not recommended at this time, the release said.
According to health officials, the threat of monkeypox to the city’s general population remains low. Monkeypox is rare and doesn’t spread easily between people without close, personal, skin-to-skin contact. Symptoms include a rash or sores that can look like pimples or blisters and may be extremely painful, fever, headache, weakness, chills and swollen lymph nodes, HHD said. The illness usually lasts two to four weeks. Officials said it can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash fully heals and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
Groups prioritized by the department for monkeypox vaccination include:
- People confirmed to have had high- or intermediate-risk contact with someone with monkeypox.
- People who attended an event or venue where there was a high risk of exposure to someone with the monkeypox virus through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. The department said it works with event or venue organizers to identify people who may have been present and at risk of exposure while at the venue.
The department said other groups receiving vaccination priority are people age 18 and older who:
- Are men who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sex partners within the previous 21 days,
- Have a sex partner suspected of having monkeypox, such as a rash or sores,
- Are HIV positive or on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or
- Have had a diagnosis of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or early syphilis within the previous three months.
For more information about monkeypox, prevention tips and resources, visit houstonhealth.org or call the department’s call center at 832-393-4220.