Metro Weekly

DC Health Expands Monkeypox Vaccine Eligibility

Non-residents who work in the District, receive health care in D.C., and college students who are at high risk now eligible for appointments.

A patient receives a vaccine – Photo: Centers for Disease Control, via Unsplash.

DC Health, the city agency overseeing public health for the District of Columbia, announced it has expanded eligibility for monkeypox vaccines to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current vaccination criteria.

The change in eligibility criteria comes as the number of confirmed monkeypox cases continues to tick up across the country, surpassing 11,000 cases in the United States.

There are currently 321 cases of monkeypox in the District, which represents the highest number of cases per capita of any state-level jurisdiction in the country.

Under the new eligibility criteria, vaccines are not solely limited to District residents, but will now be available to individuals, aged 18 or over, who work in the District, students enrolled at District universities and colleges, and people affiliated with DC Health Programs who receive health care services in the District.

Those recommended for vaccination include all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, who have had multiple sexual partners in the past two week, including communities considered at high risk of contracting the monkeypox virus.

Those at-risk communities include gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, transgender men and women, commercial sex workers, and staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs.

The expansion of eligibility is interesting, in that nearby jurisdictions like Maryland and Virginia only offer vaccines to residents of those states, despite having larger populations and fewer confirmed cases of monkeypox infection.

Additionally, the expansion of vaccinations to all people, regardless of sexual orientation, represents a change from the most at-risk populations, such as men who have sex with men, who comprise more than 98% of all confirmed cases in the current outbreak.

Newly eligible individuals will be able to pre-register under the new criteria through the District’s registration portal at starting on Saturday, July 13.

As of Friday, DC Health had received 21,755 doses of Jynneos vaccine since the start of the outbreak, administering more than 15,671 doses through DC monkeypox extended PEP clinics.

More than 28,700 District residents have been able to preregister for vaccines, and DC Health has hosted pop-up vaccination clinics, with limited numbers of doses, in various locations, to ensure the vaccine is being distributed across the District in a more equitable fashion by reaching communities that have been historically marginalized or overlooked in past vaccination efforts.

Monkeypox is typically transmitted from person to person through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or bodily fluids of a person with the virus, as well as through respiratory secretions during prolonged face to face contact or through fomites, such as bedding and towels, used by an infected person.

Initial symptoms often include flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash and pus-filled, blister-like lesions on the skin. Anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should talk to their provider about getting tested, even if they don’t believe they’ve had contact with an infected individual.

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