D.C. shifts monkeypox vaccine strategy to prioritize unvaccinated residents

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D.C. shifts monkeypox vaccine strategy to prioritize unvaccinated residents

Health officials said at 172 confirmed infections, Washington, D.C., is the most infected place in the United States per capita. Photo by Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/CDC/Wikimedia Commons

Health officials in Washington, D.C., announced a shift to its monkeypox vaccination campaign to postpone administering second doses in order to prioritize high-risk residents who have yet to receive their first shot against the virus.

The D.C. Department of Health announced the decision in a statement Monday explaining the move was taken due to the “very limited supply of vaccines” and a rapid increase in cases.

“This is extremely important because getting more individuals vaccinated with their first shot will help us contain the virus,” it said.

The decision, it said, mirrors distribution strategies deployed in Britain, Canada and New York City, and is based on available scientific evidence as well as the acceleration of the outbreak, the high demand for vaccines and the nationwide shortage for the JYNNEOS vaccine.

Health officials said the re-prioritization allowed them on Saturday to issue more than 5,000 additional invitations to high-risk residents to receive their first shot of the two-shot vaccine regimen.

“D.C. Health is confident that additional vaccine doses will be available when needed for those who have received their first does,” it said, adding studies show that the drug is effective after six months of being inoculated with a single dose.

Those who have already been scheduled for a second dose will be notified that their appointment has been postponed, and that they will be contacted to reschedule once “additional sufficient doses” are supplied by the federal government, the department said, adding that those with a weakened immune system caused by HIV or cancer will remain eligible for a second shot.

The announcement comes as the United States battles an outbreak of the virus that has spread to 46 states and D.C. since the first case was identified in Massachusetts in mid-May. As of Monday, there have been nearly 3,500 infections tallied by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With 172 cases of monkeypox, Washington, D.C., is the most infected place per capita, officials said.

The Biden administration has announced measures in an effort to stymie the outbreak, including the ordering of millions of doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine.

However, only 310,385 doses have been shipped nationwide, including 13,938 to Washington, D.C., according to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services.

On Saturday, the World Health Organization declared the international outbreak a Public Health Emergency of international Concern with nearly 16,000 confirmed infections this year in 74 countries.

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