Change in Monkeypox vaccine plan widens eligibility

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Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:11 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More people in South Carolina are eligible and encouraged to get the monkeypox or MPX vaccine because of a new way the state’s health department is giving it.

The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control is giving the shot just under the top layer of the skin instead of in a deeper fat layer. That change, the agency says, expanded who is eligible for the shot.

The alternate method, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have signed off on, will allow DHEC to get five times the number of doses out of a single vial.

But DHEC says the number of doses is still limited.

“We would not have enough doses if every member of the high-risk population in the state, though, sought vaccination at this point in time,” Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler said.

With that in mind, the agency is monitoring data to see if it needs to expand eligibility for the vaccine.

Under the new guidance, the following people can get the shot now:

  • Men who have sex with men, including gay or bisexual men, transgender or gender non-conforming individuals, who have had either an STI in the last 90 days or multiple sex partners in the last 90 days
  • Anyone receiving HIV PrEP treatment

The vaccine is currently not recommended to the general public or healthcare workers.

“If we are still having a supply of vaccine, we may expand eligibility criteria even further,” Traxler said.

People can find out if they’re eligible and schedule a vaccination appointment by calling DHEC’s CareLine at 1-855-4SCDHEC, or 1-855-472-3432. The line is open Monday through Friday, excluding holidays, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

DHEC says it is working to make the shot available at more locations, including to more providers that already offer HIV PrEP.

“We want to make sure too that we’re getting this geographically out there and that we’re not just focusing it on the larger towns and cities,” Traxler said.

As of the most recent data, coming last Friday, there have been 100 total monkeypox cases reported in South Carolina, a tiny fraction of the more than 17,000 confirmed across the U.S.

Traxler says to keep South Carolina’s numbers low, people need to be safe.

“That includes getting vaccinated if you are high-risk, refraining from intimate contact with a person who has tested positive, refraining from having multiple sexual partners within a two-week span, and reaching out to your healthcare provider or to a DHEC health department if you believe you have been infected with MPX,” Traxler said.

Traxler says while this new method DHEC is using to vaccinate isn’t common, it’s one she says providers are perfectly capable of doing. She says DHEC has also been recently training its nurses and providers in how to give the shot with this new method before actually implementing it this week.

Among those 100 confirmed cases so far in South Carolina, 24 of them have been reported in the Lowcountry, 38 have been in the Midlands, 10 have been in the Pee Dee and 28 have been in the Upstate.

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