Monkeypox virus. Credit: CDC.
A state health official on Wednesday warned that vaccines against the monkeypox disease spreading in Florida are limited right now but the state is awaiting more doses from the federal government.
Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, told the Florida Phoenix in a phone conversation that around 35,000 vaccines from the feds have been shipped to Florida and distributed at various county health departments.
But as of now, Redfern said, vaccines are only offered to residents from high-risk groups, as the state awaits more doses. Federal and global health officials have pointed to most cases among gay men and other men who have sex with men, but anyone can contract the virus.
“Every single dose that we received from the government has been in use,” Redfern said. “But we have no way to offer it to anyone who wants one at the moment.”
The World Health Organization had recently declared monkeypox as a public health emergency of international concern as cases continue to rise throughout the nation and worldwide.
The Biden administration announced in mid-July that it had ordered doses of the Jynneos vaccine to distribute to states to combat the outbreak, part of a national strategy to address rising cases across the nation and worldwide.
Overall, there have been 332 monkeypox cases across 18 counties, according to the state health department. Most of the infections are in South Florida, as Broward County has reported 160 cases and Miami-Dade County has 87, as of Wednesday afternoon.
Orange County has reported 19 cases; Palm Beach County has 16; Pinellas County has 14 and Monroe County has 9.
The state health department has information on its website about vaccines, transmission, treatments, and symptoms of the disease, such as a characteristic rash, fever and chills.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration “privately” told Congress that it may need about $7 billion to respond to the threat of monkeypox, according to a Tuesday report from The Washington Post.
The Post wrote: “The private discussions have unfolded as public health experts warn that monkeypox, which can spread by skin-to-skin contact and cause fever, lesions and severe pain, is at risk of becoming permanently entrenched in the United States. Federal officials have identified about 3,500 cases, overwhelmingly among gay and bisexual men, and have warned that the virus is likely to spread to broader populations.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Wednesday sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “to request additional vaccines and resources to address the growing number of monkeypox cases in Florida to prevent further spread.”
Fried wrote: “The mobilization of resources by HHS has been critical to the distribution and acquisition of vaccines and testing, however, further allocations are needed to protect high-risk individuals across our state. … Floridians are grateful for the 25,000 vaccines already distributed by the federal government to the state, but given the troubling spread of cases in South Florida specifically, I urge you to expedite the FDOH’s recent request for additional vaccines under your case-burden allocation strategy.”
In addition, WHO officials held a press conference on Wednesday to address not just monkeypox but other global health issues.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, said in opening remarks:
“So far, five deaths have been reported, and about 10% of cases are admitted to hospital to manage the pain caused by the disease. This is an outbreak that can be stopped, if countries, communities and individuals inform themselves, take the risks seriously, and take the steps needed to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups.
The best way to do that is to reduce the risk of exposure. That means making safe choices for yourself and others. For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed.”
This story was updated about 4 p.m.
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