Richmond, Henrico health officials offering monkeypox vaccine to high-risk populations
The Richmond & Henrico Health Districts are expanding outreach to provide monkeypox vaccinations to people who are likely to be exposed to the illness based on certain risk factors.
Most cases reported in the current monkeypox outbreak have been among people who identify as gay, bisexual or as men who have sex with other men. Also, health officials said during a streamed Thursday meeting that people who have multiple or anonymous sex partners, are sex workers or are staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs are most likely to be exposed.
The department announced this week that it had received its first shipment of the monkeypox vaccine, 160 shots, and is expecting additional doses in the coming weeks.
“Because supply is limited, we want to make sure the folks who are most likely to be exposed, are the folks that we try to vaccinate first,” said RHHD Deputy Director Dr. Melissa Viray.
Viray stressed that anyone who comes into close contact with a person infected by the virus can catch it. And earlier this week, the department began offering vaccinations to people who have been in those situations.
The monkeypox virus can cause a distinctive rash, as well as a fever, and spreads through close person-to-person contact.
The CDC recommends the vaccine be administered within four days from the date of exposure to prevent onset of the disease. If given between four and 14 days following an exposure, a vaccination might not prevent the disease, but it can alleviate symptoms.
The health districts also announced this week that people who are interested in and eligible for the vaccine can fill out a form on its website. The form notes that the supply is limited and that completing the request will not guarantee a shot.
“We’re in a better place now than we were for COVID, because we have a vaccine and we can make it available,” Viray said Thursday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there have been 2,323 reported monkeypox cases in the country. There are 56 confirmed cases in Virginia, and local health officials said that seven more people are presumed to have been infected. The first case of monkeypox in Central Virginia was announced last week.