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What you need to know about expanded eligibility for monkeypox vaccine in Wisconsin

Eligibility for people now includes sexual partners, event attendees and gay, bisexual, trans, and any other men who have sex with men
Monkeypox
Posted at 12:44 PM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 14:47:53-04

MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin has expanded the eligibility for people to get the vaccine for monkeypox, the potentially serious disease spreading across the U.S.

It is now recommended the following people get the vaccine in Wisconsin:

  • People who know that a sexual partner in the past two weeks was diagnosed with monkeypox.
  • People who attended an event or venue where there was known monkeypox exposure.
  • Gay, bisexual, trans, and any other men who have sex with men, who have had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Designee Karen Timberlake said in a statement they are following federal guidelines when it comes to JYNNEOS vaccine eligibility.

“At the same time, we encourage all Wisconsinites to be aware of the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and take precautions to prevent the spread," said Timberlake.

To stop the spread of the virus, the DHS encourages people to do the following:

  • Know the symptoms of the virus
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with people showing signs of rashes or skins sores
  • If you wEre exposed, contact a doctor to discuss treatment
  • If you are confirmed with monkeypox, isolate at home until the rash has recovered, scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed

US signs off on 800,000 more doses of monkeypox vaccine

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: After weeks of delays, nearly 800,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine will soon be available for distribution, U.S. health regulators said Wednesday.

The announcement comes amid growing criticism that authorities have been too slow in deploying the vaccine, potentially missing the window to contain what could soon become an entrenched infectious disease.

Nearly two weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration said it had finished the necessary inspections at Bavarian Nordic's facility in Denmark, where the company fills vials of the vaccine. The FDA said via Twitter on Wednesday that the certification had been finalized. The doses are already in the U.S. “so that they would be ready to be distributed once the manufacturing changes were approved,” the agency said.

The U.S. already has sent more than 310,000 doses of the two-shot Jynneos vaccine to state and local health departments. But clinics in San Francisco, New York and other major cities say they still don’t have enough shots to meet demand.

There were more than 4,600 reported monkeypox cases in the U.S. as of late Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday officials would announce more vaccine allocations on Thursday.

Officials at the San Francisco Department of Health welcomed the news, saying they need many thousands more vaccine doses than the 7,800 they have received to date. “Without enough vaccine supply, we would have trouble fulfilling our basic duty of keeping our communities safe,” the agency said in a statement.

Washington, D.C., officials said Wednesday they would join their counterparts in San Francisco, New York City and other cities who have stopped offering appointments for second vaccine doses due to short supplies. They said the single-dose strategy would allow them to “vaccinate more people at risk and slow the spread of monkeypox in the community more quickly.”

The monkeypox virus mainly spreads through skin-on-skin contact, but it can also transmit through touching linens used by someone with the infection. The vast majority of cases reported have been in men who have sex with men, though health officials have stressed that anyone can catch the virus.

People with monkeypox may experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. Many in the outbreak have developed zit-like bumps on many parts of the body.

The sluggish federal response has drawn comparisons to the initial days of the COVID-19 outbreak, but experts have pointed out that the U.S. had one huge advantage: more than 1 million doses of vaccine in the strategic national stockpile.

But it turned out U.S. officials had only about 2,000 doses on hand when the outbreak was first identified in May. Shipping and regulatory delays have meant only a portion of the rest were deployed.

“There's not enough doses,” said Dr. Perry Halkitis, a public health specialist at Rutgers University. “I think with some quicker action on the part of federal government we might not be in the situation we are now.”

The doses previously shipped came from a separate facility in Denmark that already had FDA clearance. Another 786,000 doses made at a newly opened Bavarian Nordic facility were awaiting the U.S. certification announced Wednesday.

The FDA requires inspections of all vaccine manufacturing plants to assure safety, sterility and consistency of production.

U.S. officials announced orders this month for 5 million more doses, though most of those are not expected to arrive until next year

Officials have recommended the shots be given to people who know or suspect they were exposed to monkeypox in the previous two weeks.

The Jynneos vaccine has never been widely used in response to an outbreak like this, and the government will track how well it’s working,

Why declaring monkeypox a global health emergency is a preventative step -- not a reason for panic

BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Countries that are members of the United Nations are obligated to report cases of unusual diseases that have the potential to become global health threats. In May 2022, more than a dozen countries in Europe, the Americas and other regions of the world that had never before had cases of monkeypox started to report cases occurring within their borders.

In response, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, convened a monkeypox emergency committee to track the evolving situation. At the committee’s first meeting on June 23, 2022, the members observed that the “multi-country outbreak” might be stabilizing as case counts had plateaued in several countries.

However, after thousands more cases of monkeypox were diagnosed in dozens of countries in July, it became clear that the outbreak had not stagnated. On July 23, 2022, Tedros declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.

As a global health expert who specializes in infectious disease epidemiology I do not think that most people need to be worried about monkeypox. This decision by the WHO, though it may sound ominous, is not a sign of bad things to come. Rather, it is a way to prevent monkeypox from becoming a global crisis.

What is a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)?

The International Health Regulations are a set of rules that guide how the WHO and United Nations member states respond to emerging health threats.

Under the current regulations, a “public health emergency of international concern” – often abbreviated as a PHEIC – can be declared by the WHO director-general when three criteria are met: the situation is an “extraordinary event,” there is a risk of spread to other countries, and the situation might “potentially require a coordinated international response.”

Before monkeypox, only five diseases had been designated as PHEICs since the WHO started using the term in 2005: the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009; polio resurgences in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan in 2014; the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014 and an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo 2019; the spread of Zika virus in the Americas in 2016; and the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. While all of these events were noteworthy, only the coronavirus pandemic became a worldwide catastrophe.

Why is monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern?

The director-general of the WHO is the only person who can declare a PHEIC, but the decision is based on advice from the designated emergency committee. After the monkeypox emergency committee met for the second time, on July 21, 2022, it released a report stating that “the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox meets all the three criteria defining a PHEIC.”

The rapid spread of the virus to more than 70 countries was evidence of the risk of further international spread. The committee expressed concerns about whether vaccines would be priced reasonably and distributed equitably in the absence of a coordinated international response. And it agreed that there were aspects of the situation that were “extraordinary” – a vague term that is not defined in the International Health Regulations.

However, the committee did not express unanimous agreement that a public health emergency of international concern should be declared. Some members questioned whether a disease that has a low case fatality rate should be a PHEIC. Others worried that a PHEIC designation could further stigmatize LGBTQ communities since most cases thus far have been diagnosed among men who have sex with men.

The vote from the emergency committee was split – nine against and six for PHEIC status. But Director-General Tedros opted to go ahead and declare monkeypox a PHEIC.

What happens now?

The goal of a PHEIC designation is to prevent an emerging disease from becoming a global health crisis. The WHO has two initial goals for monkeypox. First, to try to stop the virus from beginning to circulate in susceptible populations where it is not currently present. And second, to distribute vaccines and antiviral medications to the countries and communities that need them most.

After the PHEIC declaration, the WHO released a set of temporary recommendations that asks countries to work harder on preventing cases in affected and at-risk communities, to improve clinical care for people with monkeypox and to contribute to research on vaccines and treatments for monkeypox. The recommendations also ask countries to advise infected individuals and their direct contacts not to travel except in urgent situations, but they do not impose any restrictions on international travel or trade.

Finally, the WHO has advised that individuals who are members of at-risk communities take steps to protect themselves from the virus, but has not called for changed behavior in the general public.

A public health emergency of international concern is the highest level of alert in the International Health Regulations, but it is not a synonym for a pandemic. The status is a tool for protecting global population health and not a declaration that a global crisis is already happening.

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