Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo asking federal government for additional monkeypox vaccines

Last week, Harris County requested more vaccines and was allocated 17,000 vaccines, though they have not arrived yet.

Chaz Miller Image
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
17,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine headed to Harris Co.
Right now, Harris County has enough vaccines to fully vaccinate 250 people. The county request more vaccines, but they have not arrived.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Public health officials and local leaders in the Houston and Harris County region are calling for more resources from the federal government to help contain the spread of monkeypox.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in an update Tuesday morning that the county needs a substantial increase in monkeypox vaccines and "we need those vaccines now."

"The time to vaccinate enough people is now," Hidalgo said. "It is not when we have a state of emergency."

Last week, the county was allocated 17,000 vaccines after a request for more, though they have not arrived yet.

The county would need triple that number just to cover the first doses for residents who meet CDC eligibility, Hidalgo said, adding that currently, the county has only 250 vaccines left.

Those vaccines are being given out extremely judiciously to high-risk individuals, Hidalgo explained. She also said the county is not offering appointments because there are no vaccines to give.

"The criteria (for vaccination) is having had direct exposure to monkeypox, engaging in sex acts with multiple partners in bathhouses (and other places), those who have had gonorrhea and syphilis in the last three months, and anyone who is on prep, as well," Dr. Ericka Brown of Harris County Public Health said.

If there is a positive, Hidalgo said that the infrastructure to handle quickly distributing thousands of vaccines is there, thanks to lessons from COVID-19, so the issue the county faces isn't operational.

According to Hidalgo, it's a supply problem.

"We're ready to go. We just need the vaccines," she said.

SEE ALSO: Monkeypox numbers expected to rise due to increased testing, expert says

It comes as two more children have tested positive for monkeypox, this time in Indiana.

Last month, federal officials confirmed that two other children in the U.S. had tested positive, one a toddler in California and the other an infant, who is also a non-U.S. resident, that tested while traveling through Washington, D.C.

Currently, most monkey cases confirmed domestically and globally in the current outbreak have been detected in men who have sex with men. However, health officials have repeatedly stressed that the virus does not discriminate, and anyone exposed to monkeypox can contract the virus.

People are most commonly infected by close person-to-person contact, including intimate contact, though it is possible for the disease to also spread through respiratory secretions or by "touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox," according to the CDC.

The news of additional pediatric monkeypox cases comes amidst growing pressure from officials across the country for the U.S. to declare a public health emergency for the outbreak.

In late July, the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global emergency.

Declaring a global emergency means the monkeypox outbreak is an "extraordinary event" that could spill over into more countries and requires a coordinated global response.

WHO previously declared emergencies for public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in Latin America in 2016 and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.

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ABC News contributed to this report.

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