Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — With evolving case trends and increasing vaccine supply, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is expanding eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine. Vaccinations are a key tool to keep individuals healthy, prevent spread, and protect communities.
Starting Wednesday, vaccine will be available for people who meet any of the following criteria:
♦ Anyone who had close contact in the past two weeks with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox; or
♦ Gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men, or transgender individuals, who are sexually active; or
♦ People who have had sexual contact with gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men, or transgender individuals in the past 90 days; or
♦ People living with HIV, or taking medication to prevent HIV (PrEP), or who were diagnosed with syphilis in the past 90 days.
Expanded eligibility is based on case data and current spread to protect more people in higher-risk categories. While anyone can get monkeypox, nearly all of North Carolina’s cases are still in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. Nationally, the CDC reports 78.9 percent of individuals report man to man sexual contact.
The new criteria remove requirements that might have prevented some gay, bisexual, or other MSM from getting vaccinated. People who have had sexual contact with this group are also in the expanded group of potential vaccine recipients.
Around half of North Carolina’s cases are being diagnosed in people living with HIV, or in people who are taking medication to prevent HIV, or who have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. Expanded eligibility also helps protect people who meet these criteria. Case data will continue to drive NCDHHS criteria for vaccine as more supply is available, further reducing risk of community spread.
As of August 31, 11,420 vaccine doses have been administered across the state, and more doses are expected in the coming weeks. NCDHHS is working with all levels of government together in partnership with community organizations to improve disparities in monkeypox cases and vaccinations. As of August 31, in North Carolina 68 percent of cases were in Black or African American individuals but this group has received only 27 percent of monkeypox vaccines. Nationally, about 10 percent of vaccine doses have gone to Black or African American individuals.
NCDHHS and its partners encourage North Carolinians, especially those as higher risk for monkeypox, to take three steps to help limit the spread of the virus:
♦ LEARN the facts. Anyone can get monkeypox. It spreads mostly through close skin-to-skin contact.
♦ LOOK for a rash. Get new rashes, lesions or sores checked by a health care provider. Talk with your partner about any monkeypox symptoms.
♦ LOCATE testing and vaccines for yourself or your community. There is no limit on testing. Talk to your doctor or local health department. Limited vaccine supply is prioritized for those currently most at risk and the communities where the virus is spreading.
People most commonly get monkeypox through close and sustained skin-to-skin contact, including but not limited to intimate and sexual contact. The virus can also spread through contact with body fluids such as saliva or fluid from the lesions of infected individuals. The incubation period is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days. People with monkeypox are infectious from the start of symptoms (before the rash forms) until the lesions heal and new skin forms underneath scabs and the scabs have all fallen off.
Many people with monkeypox experience flu-like symptoms and the blisters are very painful. Most people with monkeypox get better on their own, and monkeypox is rarely fatal.
If you or your partner has a new or unexplained rash, or other monkeypox symptoms, do not have sex, and see a healthcare provider. Using a condom can lower your risk of monkeypox. Learn more about lowering the risk of exposure to monkeypox during sex.
JYNNEOS is a safe and effective monkeypox vaccine. The vaccine requires two doses at least 28 days apart, and it takes 14 days after getting the second dose of JYNNEOS to reach maximum protection. People who have already been exposed to monkeypox but do not have symptoms can be vaccinated to prevent illness or lead to milder symptoms if given within 14 days after exposure.
For the latest information on monkeypox in North Carolina, including where to locate testing and vaccines, visit ncdhhs.gov/monkeypox.