BATON ROUGE, La. (BPRROUD) — Louisiana Department of Health leaders say the state does not have enough vaccines to combat the monkeypox virus.
Even though Louisiana monkeypox cases are relatively low compared to the nation, the state said there is a demand and there is a major concern.
“I wouldn’t say we have widespread transmission at this point, but I do think many cases are undetected. I can tell you many cases we have identified and interviewed so far, many of them have had to seek care from more than one provider before they were tested,” said Theresa Sokol, LDH epidemiologist.
On Wednesday, LDH reported 58 total infections. The majority of infections are reported to be in the southeast region of the state.
The state received a shipment of 2,880 doses of Jynneos, a monkeypox vaccine, on Wednesday. If a health provider wants to prescribe an antiviral medication to treat the virus they have to request it through LDH.
“I am concerned,” said Sokol. “I don’t think we have enough [vaccines] to meet the demand.”
While anyone can get monkeypox, the director of the state’s STD HIV program Sam Burgess said the virus disproportionately impacts the gay and bisexual community.
Next month New Orleans is hosting its annual Southern Decadence festival. Burgess said he’s working on hosting community vaccine events in New Orleans and Baton Rouge before major events that attract vulnerable communities.
“It’s not considered a sexually transmitted infection although the close contact occurs during sexual activity is very efficient with transmitting the virus with someone who has it and doesn’t,” said Burgess.
As of right now, those who can get the vaccine have to meet requirements.
Who is eligible for monkeypox vaccination:
- Known exposures
- Gay, bisexual, other (cis or trans) men who have sex with men or transgender women and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men and who have had intimate or sexual contact with multiple or anonymous partners in last 14 days or have had intimate or sexual contact with other men in a social or sexual venue in the last 14 days
- Individuals (of any sex/gender identity) who have given or received money or other goods/services in exchange for sex in the last 14 days
“Monkeypox is really transmitted with close to close contact, it’s really direct contact with the sores with the person who is infected with monkeypox,” said Sokol.
Burgess said there is no data to determine the gay or bisexual population in the state. However, he estimates at least 50,000 people in Louisiana are gay or bisexual. He said 2,880 doses of the vaccine does not nearly meet demands.
“We are working very closely with providers trying to make sure they are getting those doses out as quickly as possible,” said Burgess.
Sokol said if you have pre-existing conditions or are HIV positive and on PREP you can still get the Jynneos vaccine. She said the state is not ordering doses of the ACAM 2000 vaccine, which is known for impacting pre-existing health conditions.
“The unfortunate part of it is that ACAM 2000 is actually in greater supply which is one of the reasons we do not have enough vaccine for everybody,” she said.
According to LDH, the CDC is working with manufacturers to distribute more vaccines. After Wednesday’s allocations, the state does not know when its next shipment will be. The smallpox vaccine is also effective against monkeypox.
For a list of all locations in Louisiana administering the monkeypox vaccine, click here.