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The latest on monkeypox in Florida: state records pediatric case, expands vaccine supply

There's limited supplies of monkeypox vaccines nationally, so only certain high-risk individuals can access it.
Tobias Arhelger - stock.adobe.co
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There's limited supplies of monkeypox vaccines nationally, so only certain high-risk individuals can access it.

So far 1,317 people in Florida have tested positive for monkeypox, according to an update Tuesday from the Florida Department of Health. Vaccine supply remains limited, but officials hope a change in how shots are administered makes them more accessible.

Health officials are now advising doctors to inject the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine between adult patients' skin layers instead of underneath them.

Intradermal injection can be done using less vaccine than subcutaneous, so doctors can get more doses out of one vial, explained Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County and statewide medical director for county health systems.

Speaking to reporters on a press call, Choe said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently granted emergency authorization for this change in delivery after research showed it’s effective.

“Converting and providing the vaccines intradermally is a game changer, what it essentially does is that increases the vaccine supply five-fold just by doing that conversion,” said Choe, who added health officials are educating providers around the state about how to administer the vaccines in this way.

Of the more than 1,300 cases in Florida, 99% are in men and nearly 75% live in Miami-Dade or Broward counties, said Choe. Most of these individuals are men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and nonbinary. Just over half of people who have tested positive for the virus are also living with HIV.

Shots are still limited to those at highest risk for infection including people who have been exposed to monkeypox, men who have sex with men who are also positive for HIV or had a recent diagnosis of a sexually-transmitted infection, or health and laboratory workers who may come in close contact with the virus.

Florida has received a little fewer than 65,000 doses of vaccine, so far, according to Choe, with a large portion of those going to the hardest hit areas of the state. The state is working with health care providers who treat members of the LGBTQ community and who treat people living with HIV to assist in vaccine distribution and educate patients about monkeypox prevention and treatment.

In the Tampa Bay region, 57 people have tested positive for monkeypox in Hillsborough, 51 in Pinellas, six in Polk, four in Pasco and one in both Sarasota and Citrus counties.

Pediatric case reported in Florida

The state reported its first case in a young child on Tuesday. The patient is younger than five and tested positive in Martin County. The state has also recorded eight cases in the 15-19 age group.

While health officials want everyone to take measures to protect themselves against infection, they stress it's rare for kids to get it.

Only a handful of the nearly 12,000 cases nationally have been among children.

Choe didn’t comment on the case in Martin County specifically during the call, but said pediatric cases typically stem from contact at home with someone infected with the virus.

Monkeypox isn't as contagious as, say, the coronavirus, which spreads through the air. People need to have prolonged contact with someone who has monkeypox lesions or their clothing or linens.

“From what I’ve reviewed in some of the literature and some of the expert opinions is they don't believe that schools, especially the K-12, are going to be big drivers of this,” said Choe.

Schools have protocol in general for dealing with students that present with rashes, Choe said.

The FDA has also granted emergency use authorization for the JYNNEOS vaccine in kids younger than 18 determined to be at high risk for monkeypox infection, but it must be administered subcutaneously.

While treatment for monkeypox remains limited to high-risk individuals, Choe said testing for the virus has become much more widely available in recent weeks.

Resources

The Florida Department of Health has a webpage that contains information on monkeypox symptoms and prevention, as does the Centers for Disease Control.

You can find out how many cases of monkeypox have been reported in your county and search by age group on the state's Reportable Diseases Frequency Report.

The CDC tracks monkeypox cases nationally.

The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County is offering monkeypox vaccines on a walk-in basis at its St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Mid County, and Clearwater Health Departments between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Bring picture ID and go to the front desk/admitting for registration. Call 727-824-6931 or click here for more information.

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Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.