As monkeypox cases climb in FL, ‘the vaccines will arrive too late for many’

By: - August 12, 2022 3:42 pm

Health worker administers a vaccination against monkeypox. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

As monkeypox cases rise in Florida, a Democratic state senator in South Florida on Friday urged federal health officials to boost access to vaccines, testing and treatments as Floridians face severe vaccine shortages.

State Sen. Shevrin Jones sent a letter to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stating that he’s “deeply worried about the severe shortage of vaccines (for monkeypox disease) and limited access” to testing and “treatment through the antiviral drug tecovirimat (TPOXX).”

Though the federal government has allocated tens of thousands of doses of vaccines for Florida, Jones wrote in his letter that the vaccines will be delivered in installments through October.

Jones, who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, stressed the importance of allocating vaccines to college students across the state, as they prepare to return to campuses soon.

“Sadly, the monkeypox virus is already rapidly spreading throughout our communities, and the vaccines will arrive too late for many,” Jones said. “In particular, it is critical that vaccines be made accessible to college students as they prepare to return to campus in the coming weeks.”

Jones continued: “Therefore, I call on you to work with other federal agencies to cut as much red tape as possible to speed the prescription and distribution of antiviral medications like TPOXX that can effectively treat the virus, but currently require significant paperwork and regulatory hurdles to prescribe.”

In Florida, data from the Florida Department of Health show a total of 1,085 monkeypox cases, as of Friday afternoon. Most cases have been identified in South Florida, with Miami-Dade County reporting 420 and Broward reporting 389.

Other counties with the most cases include Orange (62), Palm Beach (47), Hillsborough (42) and Pinellas (39).

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been distributing the Jynneos vaccine to states and the Biden administration this week suggested a new way to administer doses to stretch out the supply.

The federal government has shipped 65,960 doses of the Jynneos vaccine to Florida, as of Friday, according to data from HHS. In total, 109,284 doses have been allocated to Floridians from the federal government.

The disease has disproportionately affected men who have sex with men, but anyone can contract the virus, according to health officials. The virus oftentimes causes a characteristic rash and other symptoms.

“With one of the largest populations of LGBTQI people in the nation, Florida has a greater number of at-risk people,” Jones said in the letter. “While no other demographics are currently at high risk, I want to ensure that remains the case and therefore urge more swift action rooted in practice experience from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.