Health

Mass. ramps up monkeypox vaccination efforts

The vaccine is now being administered at four designated health care facilities in the state.

The Associated Press

Massachusetts is now offering vaccines to help protect against monkeypox, ramping up efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.

monkeypox

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has distributed a limited supply of the vaccine, known as JYNNEOS, to 10 states, including the Bay State. According to the state Department of Public Health, Massachusetts received an initial allocation of 2,004 doses of the vaccine on Tuesday and more are expected to be available in the coming weeks. 

The initial doses are being offered by appointment only at four health care providers in eastern Massachusetts: Fenway Health (Boston), Massachusetts General Hospital Sexual Health Clinic (Boston), Boston Medical Center Infectious Disease Clinic (Boston), and Outer Cape Cod Health Services (Provincetown). 

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The state said that due to the limited doses, for now the vaccinations will only be available to those who either live or work in Massachusetts and are at the highest risk of exposure to someone with monkeypox. That includes those who have had close contact to someone with the virus and those who have had multiple sexual partners in recent weeks in an area where the infection is known to be spreading. 

“The Massachusetts Department of Public Health will expand eligibility if and when more doses are received from the CDC,” the department said. 

The JYNNEOS vaccine consists of two shots, given 28 days apart for “maximum effectiveness,” according to the state. The vaccine can be administered before or soon after exposure to the illness, and you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second shot. 

“People who get vaccinated should continue to protect themselves from infection by avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact, including intimate contact, with someone who has monkeypox,” the state said.

According to the CDC, as of Thursday morning there had been 605 cases of monkeypox across the country — 29 in Massachusetts. There have been no deaths related to the outbreak either in the United States or globally, and those who are infected usually recover in two to four weeks. 

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The first cases in Massachusetts and other parts of the country were associated with international travel, but recent cases are not, according to the state. Officials continue to remind the public that while men who have sex with men comprise a “large proportion” of the cases that have been identified so far, the risks are not limited to the LGBTQ community since anyone who has been a close contact with an infected individual is at risk. 

“While the virus does not spread easily between people, people can spread the infection once they develop symptoms,” the state said. 

Public health experts and activists are working to combat misinformation about the illness, stressing that sexual orientation does not change one’s susceptibility to monkeypox.

The illness can be spread through direct contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, or by touching items that have been contaminated, according to the Department of Public Health. Less commonly, it can spread through respiratory droplets after “prolonged face-to-face contact.” But it is not spread in instances such as touching surfaces like doorknobs, casual conversation, or walking by an infected individual. 

“In many of the recent cases, the locations of the rash lesions suggest transmission during sexual contact,” the state has said.

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Early symptoms of monkeypox include rash, fever, headache, sore throat, cough, and swollen lymph nodes. Rashes from the illness develop into lesions that start flat but become raised and filled with liquid. 

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