The state health department is expanding access to monkeypox vaccines and changing the way it administers the shot to make it more efficient.
The Virginia Department of Health announced Thursday that it would expand eligibility for the Jynneos shot to women and heterosexual men, aligning its policy with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the city of Richmond and Henrico County, where demand exceeds supply, gay men who already asked for the shot will stay first in line.
Now, men and women of any sexuality are eligible for the shot if they have had anonymous or multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks, are sex workers or are staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs.
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Cases in women have been rare. Of the 295 cases that have occurred in Virginia, only four have been in women. Most cases have occurred in men who have sex with men.
On Monday, most health districts in the state will alter how they administer the shots to make them more efficient. Currently, health professionals give the shot subcutaneously, or under the skin. One vial of Jynneos provides one dose when administered subcutaneously.
Starting next week, health professionals will give the shot intradermally, or in between the layers of the skin. When administered this way, one vial of Jynneos can provide five doses.
Some health districts may not be able to give the shot intradermally by Monday if their staffs haven’t been trained yet, a spokesperson for the state health department said.
Because the virus has occurred mostly in men, and because there are more people who want the vaccine than doses, the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts will continue prioritizing the gay men who already signed up.
As of last week, Richmond and Henrico had received about 900 vials. But about 4,000 local residents have expressed interest.
“I do want to highlight that gay and bisexual men, transwomen and nonbinary people assigned male at birth who have sex with other people assigned male at birth continue to be most impacted by monkeypox,” said Dr. Elaine Perry, director of the health districts. “I say this not to stigmatize but rather to acknowledge who has carried the most burden throughout this recent monkeypox spread and to emphasize our promise to serve those most impacted with resources.”
Among the 295 cases in Virginia, about 60% have occurred in Northern Virginia. The number of cases per week has increased throughout the summer.
Altogether, the state has received 15,000 vials of Jynneos and administered nearly 6,000 of them. Recipients get two doses four weeks apart.