Washington will receive around 400 courses of the two-dose monkeypox vaccine through the federal government’s plan to distribute a limited amount of vaccines nationwide, the state Department of Health said Friday.
Due to limited supplies, the federal government will first distribute 56,000 doses, prioritizing states and areas with the highest case rates.
The vaccine is being distributed based on the number of monkeypox cases in each state; 272 courses have already been distributed in parts of Washington with known cases and close contacts.
The majority of the doses distributed in the first phase of the federal government’s plan will be used to vaccinate high- and intermediate-risk close contacts of confirmed and probable cases, the DOH said.
In late July or early August, the federal government will make 240,000 doses available nationwide.
Washington currently has a “relatively small number” of cases and it is unclear how many additional doses the state will receive, according to the health department.
There are currently 15 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox in Washington, according to the DOH. One person was exposed in another state but tested positive in Washington. All other cases were in King County residents.
While early cases occurred in people who had traveled outside Washington, the most recent cases have occurred in people who had not traveled recently, meaning they were likely exposed to monkeypox locally, the health department said. Officials are working to conduct contact tracing and notify close contacts in these cases, according to the DOH.
Washington epidemiologist Scott Lindquist said transmission generally requires close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who is symptomatic and that the vaccine can reduce the chance of developing an infection for those who have recently had close contact with someone who has tested positive.
“The risk to the public is low at this time,” he said in a statement.
A limited number of vaccines will be given to laboratory workers who directly handle monkeypox specimens. Public health officials say they may eventually make the vaccine available to “high-risk” individuals without a known exposure.
According to the DOH, monkeypox can cause flulike symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that can appear anywhere on the body. Most recently, people have had lesions on the genitals or in the anal area sometimes with or without flulike symptoms, the health authority said.
Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is primarily spread through close contact, like sexual activity, and not through the air, according to the DOH. Anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox or has been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed should see a health care provider.
Most cases do not require hospitalization and to date, no one in the U.S. has died from the virus, according to the state health department. People typically recover within two to four weeks but more serious cases can arise for immunocompromised people, children, people with eczema or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, the department said.
According to the DOH, Washington has “no shortage of testing capacity for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses that includes monkeypox,” and the state has been able to test every suspected case reported to local health departments.