Monkeypox vaccines distributed to local health departments amid rise in cases

Due to the limited supply of vaccines, they're only given to high-risk individuals who have been exposed.

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ByJaclyn Lee via WPVI logo
Wednesday, July 20, 2022
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"If you think you've been exposed to monkeypox, isolate at home and call your doctor," said Dr. Michael Coletta, chief physician for Delaware's Division of Public Health.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Monkeypox vaccines have officially arrived in the tri-state area and local health departments are administering them immediately in light of a surge in cases.

"We want to make it clear monkeypox is not COVID," said Dr. Edward Lifshitz, the medical director of the Communicable Disease Service for the New Jersey Department of Health. "It does not spread easily through the air and it is much harder to transmit, so while we are seeing a large increase in the number of cases, there's still a tiny number compared to something such as COVID."

There are at least 64 monkeypox cases in Pennsylvania, with 33 in Philadelphia; 45 probable and confirmed cases in New Jersey; and one case in Delaware.

"I don't try to be an alarmist but if there's one thing that the pandemic has taught me is that we should always be vigilant and the numbers could always get worse," said Dr. Michael Coletta, chief physician for Delaware's Division of Public Health. "We feel, as of right now, we're in a comfortable spot."

Due to the limited supply of vaccines, they're only given to high-risk individuals who have been exposed, known as post-exposure prophylaxis.

The is latest number of vaccines in the region:

  • Pennsylvania: 3,200 doses
  • Philadelphia: 2625 doses
  • New Jersey: 5400 doses
  • Delaware: 413 doses

"If you think you've been exposed to monkeypox, isolate at home and call your doctor," said Dr. Coletta.

Officials have noted the virus is predominately spreading among gay and bisexual men, but emphasize it's not a sexually transmitted disease. Rather, the virus is spreading through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, and anyone can get it.

"Monkeypox starts with a lot of the classic virus symptoms: tiredness, pain, a headache, a fever. But then the classic ones are these pox marks, these lesions, they can start off looking just like a pimple," said Brian DeHaven, associate professor of biology at La Salle University. "So I think a lot of people that are spreading this don't know they are infected."

Officials hope to receive enough vaccines in the next few months so that anyone who wants one can receive one.