Monkeypox vaccination underway in Kansas City metro

Published: Aug. 14, 2022 at 11:17 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Local health departments are ramping up efforts to get people vaccinated for monkeypox.

In July, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency. The United States followed suit on August 4th.

Last week, to limited vaccine supply, the FDA authorized giving the injection under the skin rather than in muscle tissue so that a smaller dose can be used to reach more people.

To date, there have been 22 confirmed cases of monkeypox in Kansas and Missouri, including four in Kansas City and one in Johnson County.

On Friday, Scott Clardy, the deputy director of the Kansas City Health Department indicated that with the new dosing recommendation they now have enough vaccine to vaccinate 4,500 people with the two-dose regimen.

“We will start a system next week where folks can go online, sign up if they are in a high risk group and someone will be calling them to make an appointment to get their vaccine started,” said Clardy.

They began giving some already to those who’d been directly exposed to the virus, and they will be distributing some to safety net providers.

He joined the medical officer for the Unified Government Health Department and multiple infectious disease experts for a news conference to address concerns.

With years of hearing about COVID, it’s important to know the two are spread differently.

“Well over 90% of these cases are people who are having close intimate contact with each other, prolonged contact,” said Clardy.

COVID was spread primarily through airborne transmission, which is one reason it spread so quickly. Monkeypox, experts say, is spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact.

Monkeypox usually causes sores that can look like pimples or blisters, along with fever, aches, chills and swollen lymph nodes.

“When you have contact with that pustule drainage from those wounds or lesions onto your skin, that is how you can get this disease,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, MD, the medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System

Currently, he said, most people infected in the United States have been men having sex with men, but he warned against labeling it as sexually transmitted. A KC Health pamphlet notes it can also be spread through kissing, hugging or cuddling.

“The predominant way that this is spread is through sexual contact but really the definition is close skin-to-skin contact especially with lesions,” remarked Lance Williamson, nurse supervisor for Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System.

Right now, you’re considered high-risk if any of the following apply:

*Had contact with someone with a rash

*Had multiple sexual partners

*Had close contact in a social network

*Travelled outside the United States in the last three weeks

*Work in an environment that exposes you.

Experts say you shouldn’t be worried about things like public toilets or public transit.

“If you’re a household contact of a case, we are concerned about maybe towels and maybe bathroom use, because that’s a prolonged contact situation in a household. But in a public sphere we’re not concerned about that,” said Unified Government Public Health Department Medical Officer Dr. Allen Greiner, Medical Officer, MD.

“You really are unable to spread this disease unless you are currently symptomatic,” noted Hawkinson.

Death from monkeypox is rare. There have been five deaths worldwide and none in the United States. Hospitalization is rare as well. Williamson said most hospitalization comes from the extreme pain that the lesions can cause. All said the pain can last weeks.

Once symptoms begin, Greiner and Hawkinson said, a person is infectious for 2-4 weeks. People should isolate during that time, which is a lot longer than COVID protocol.

“With this disease you are really not able to go back to work or in public until you have full crusting of those lesions and the scabs fall off,” said Hawkinson.

The good news is experts believe the vaccine works to prevent infection not just before someone is exposed but also after exposure.

“If somebody has been exposed, they like to get somebody post-exposure vaccinated within four days from exposure, said Sayo Weihs, PharmD, an infectious disease pharmacist at University Health.

Greiner said the current monkeypox outbreak has infected very few adolescents and children so far. He’s hoping it can stay that way with aggressive vaccination among the adults currently most at risk.

“I think in the distant past when we had a lot of smallpox, we did see a lot of that in children, and smallpox is a very similar virus, transmitted in very similar ways through when people have skin lesions, they’re infectious. We don’t want to see that and I think this vaccine could really help us prevent that,” said Greiner.

The Kansas City Health Department has a helpful fact sheet about monkeypox that includes a variety of images of what monkeypox rash can look like. You can find it here.