What you need to know about stretched monkeypox vaccine doses and how to keep kids safe from virus

Courtney Carpenter Image
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Need more reason to do laundry? How about monkeypox, expert says
The spread of monkeypox is expected to dominate back to school in the coming weeks. Eyewitness News asked some burning questions when it comes to preventing the spread.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As monkeypox continues to spread, over the last few weeks it has been clear the current supply of vaccines is not meeting the demand.

A change by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday will allow the doses to be stretched so more people can get vaccinated.

Under emergency use authorization, the FDA approved the monkeypox vaccine to be administered intradermally, which requires less vaccine.

Health care providers will now be able to vaccinate five people against monkeypox with the same amount of vaccine that has been used to vaccinate just one person.

Q: What is an intradermal injection?

A: "If instead you take the needle not all the way in, but just barely into the skin itself and inject a small amount of vaccine, you get a boosted immune response, so you basically get more bang for your buck if you do it intradermally," Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist with Memorial Hermann explained.

An intradermal vaccine will not go as far into your arm as a "typical" vaccine, but experts say it is a safe and effective method.

Q: Since there will be more doses available with this recent change, is the criteria going to change so that more people are eligible?

In Harris County, the answer is no right now.

A: "Given the amount of vaccines we have, even with the new expanded guidance for the vaccine, it's still not enough for all of those who are potentially eligible and meet the criteria for a vaccine, so at this time, we still have the same criteria that we previously had," Dr. Ericka Brown with Harris County Public Health explained.

As of now, vaccines are available to people who have been directly exposed to monkeypox and/or are at a high risk of getting the virus.

As of Wednesday, 238 reported monkeypox cases are within the City of Houston and Harris County.

Q: How does Houston's monkeypox case count compare to other big cities?

A: "The good news is that our numbers are small and that our rate of growth is not what we are seeing elsewhere. The bad news is that with the shortage of vaccines, we really need to rely on behavior change in order to hope that we don't get logarithmic growth that is being seen in places like New York," Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department said.

At this point, health officials say most monkeypox cases occur in men who have sex with men. The main way the virus spreads is through skin-to-skin contact for a prolonged period of time. However, that is not the only way it can spread.

"The general population needs to know that yes, this is a problem. And very shortly, for whoever thinks that this is a gay, MSM problem only I mentioned earlier, we are already starting to see that I say it spread within households. They're seeing this in Europe. This virus is not labeled a sexually transmitted disease because it is not only transmitted sexually," Persse said.

When ABC13 asked Yancey about her level of concern about the spread of monkeypox as kids head back to the classroom, she said disinfectants will do us good.

"With the little kids, attention to hand hygiene is going to be very important. Making sure that you are going around giving them little dollops of hand sanitizer and decontaminating toys," Yancey said.

As for older kids, especially those involved in contact sports such as football, cheer, or wrestling, to name a few, again, she recommends extra attention to hygiene.

"At this point, it's kind of impossible to say if this is going to be a big problem with contact sports. It hasn't been thus far. It may never turn into it in the future. But coaches and school nurses need to be aware of at least the possibility and just trying to get people to take basic precautions," Yancey said.

As far as the monkeypox virus being transmitted through bed linens or clothes outside of a household, close contact setting, it is not very likely, but not impossible.

"This virus is hearty. It can last a long time, but it's also fairly wimpy when it goes up against modern cleaners. Washing and drying your clothes will kill the heck out of monkeypox, so we'll use common household disinfectants, so the spray that you use to clean your counter will kill it dead," Yancey said.

If you have questions, the monkeypox hotline for the Houston Health Department is 832-393-4220 or you can visit houstonhealth.org.

For the Harris County Public Health Department, you can call 832-927-0707 or visit the department's monkeypox resource page.

ABC13 asked Dr. Yancey about her level of concern about the spread of monkeypox as kids head back to the classroom. She says disinfectants will do us good.

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See ABC13's full coverage on monkeypox.