ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As monkeypox spreads, those at the highest risk are heeding the warnings of health experts and trying to get vaccinated, but trying to find a vaccine is proving to be a challenge for many.
Brian Bailey, chief marketing & experience officer for Metro Inclusive Health, said the non-profit health organization is receiving daily calls, emails and social media messages from people looking to get their hands on a dose of the monkeypox vaccine.
“There is definitely an awareness that’s getting out there and it’s good because people need to know that it is something to be concerned with and it is very easily spreadable,” Bailey said.
However, the current local demand outweighs vaccine availability.
“We are not sitting on any of the unused vaccines,” Bailey said. “They’re pretty much all accounted for, both first and second doses at this point.”
While anyone can get monkeypox, the virus is still spreading predominantly among gay and bisexual men.
But with such little vaccine to go around, just being within that risk group doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get a dose.
“We are really focusing right now on those that are at the most risk, so those that are living with HIV or other immunocompromised patients,” Bailey said.
While researchers say the smallpox vaccine will protect against monkeypox, there’s only one vaccine that’s FDA approved for use against monkeypox called Jynneos.
Approved in 2019, it’s a two-dose vaccine that’s estimated to be 85% effective. Prior to this outbreak, production was small-scale.
“It’s a really safe vaccine. There just isn’t a lot of it because most companies are not going to make a ton of vaccine against something that is in very, very low demand,” Dr. Jill Roberts of USF Health said.
Now, as demand soars, only the persistent few will get a dose.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that 36,800 doses of Jynneos vaccine are being shipped to Florida, a start in protecting our population of more than 21 million.