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Wisconsin DHS expands monkeypox vaccine eligibility, data shows health disparities

As of Sept. 6, there have been 63 cases of monkeypox/orthopoxvirus identified in Wisconsin, with nearly 98% of those cases occurring in men.
Monkeypox California
Posted at 3:41 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-06 18:22:36-04

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced Tuesday it is expanding the eligibility criteria for those who can get vaccinated against monkeypox.

According to DHS, effective immediately, any Wisconsin resident who meets any of the following criteria can get vaccinated:

  • Known contacts who are identified by public health through case investigation, contact tracing, and risk exposure assessments.
  • Presumed contacts who may meet the following criteria:
    • People who know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox.
    • People who attended an event or venue where there was known monkeypox exposure.
    • Gay men, bisexual men, trans men and women, any men who have sex with men, and gender non-conforming/non-binary people who have had multiple sexual partners in the last 14 days.
  • People considered to have an elevated risk of exposure to monkeypox in the future:
    • Gay men, bisexual men, trans men and women, any men who have sex with men, and gender non-conforming/non-binary people who expect to have multiple or anonymous sex partners. This may include people living with HIV and people who take HIV pre-exposure because of increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.
    • Clinical laboratory personnel who perform testing to diagnose orthopoxviruses, including those who use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for diagnosis of orthopoxviruses, including monkeypox virus.
    • Research laboratory workers who directly handle cultures or animals contaminated or infected with orthopoxviruses that infect humans, including monkeypox virus, replication-competent vaccinia virus, or recombinant vaccinia viruses derived from replication-competent vaccinia virus strains.
    • Certain health care providers working in sexual health clinics or other specialty settings directly caring for patients with sexually transmitted infections.

According to DHS, as of Sept. 6, there have been 63 cases of monkeypox/orthopoxvirus identified in Wisconsin, with nearly 98% of those cases occurring in men. DHS says most cases self-reported having sexual contact with other men.

DHS also says it has collected data that shows monkeypox is having a disproportionate impact on communities of color in the state.

"Many social and economic factors shape these inequities," DHS said in a statement Tuesday. "The data show communities of color account for more than 50% of all monkeypox cases, with nearly 42% of cases occurring in Black Wisconsinites. While more than 50% of Wisconsin cases have occurred in communities of color, only 22% of vaccine doses have been administered to Wisconsinites who reported their race as being non-white."

DHS says the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing illness. It is available at select locations throughout Wisconsin. There are currently two locations in the Milwaukee County area: City of Milwaukee Health Department - Menomonee Valley Site (drive-thru) and through the South Milwaukee/St. Francis Health Department. There are 58 total sites across the state.

If you are unable to make an appointment at a location offering the vaccine, you are urged to contact your local or tribal health department for further assistance.

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