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Access to monkeypox vaccine expanded in Louisiana, LDH says

An image of the Monkeypox virus from the Centers for Disease Control website.
Centers for Disease Control
An image of the Monkeypox virus from the Centers for Disease Control website.

Health officials are expanding access to the monkeypox vaccine, as New Orleans sees an influx of tourists during Southern Decadence.

Under the new guidance, vaccines are available to anyone determined to be a high risk of monekypox exposure by a health care provider, clinicians and laboratory staff at risk of exposure, and gay and bisexual men and transgender people who are sexually active with more than one partner.

The expansion comes after delays and frustrations accessing the vaccine amid scarce national supply and dramatic racial and gender disparities in those most impacted by monkeypox. Data from the Louisiana Department of Health found Black people comprise 60% of those diagnosed, and men comprise 95% of cases.

“Thankfully, because of changes to how the vaccine can be administered, and increased vaccine procurement by our federal partners, we now have supply to expand eligibility and protect many more people in our state,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter, the state health officer.

In August, the Food and Drug Administration revised the process for injecting the JYNNEOS vaccine, which transformed a single dose into four to five doses that provide a similar immunologic response.

The monkeypox virus spreads through any close physical contact — not necessarily sexual contact — causing painful rashes, blisters or ulcers and flu-like illness. As of Aug. 31, there were 183 cases of monkeypox in Louisiana residents.

The state health department has established vaccine locations across the state.

In New Orleans, state health officials partnered with the New Orleans Department of Health to set up a Southern Decadence Health Hub at the main North Rampart Street entrance of Louis Armstrong Park. The hub will be open Sept. 1-5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., offering free monkeypox and COVID-19 vaccinations, plus a syringe exchange service, naloxone and fentanyl test strips.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.