After a few weeks of holding steady at three cases of monkeypox in Alaska, two more were added by the CDC this week. It’s likely the prior three cases had already resolved by the time the most recent two were added to the national database.
The CDC shows that monkeypox is still a health concern in the male gay community since first being reported in the U.S. in May. Monkeypox first came to Alaska in late July with one case. Four of the five cases in Alaska have been in Anchorage.
The disease is now found in all 50 states with a total of 23,893 cases diagnosed since the first case discovered in May. The daily average of new diagnoses has trended down since reaching a peak in August, as the vaccine for the disease became more available.
While the risk of becoming infected with monkeypox virus remains low for most Alaskans, the Alaska Department of Health has now broadened eligibility for the vaccine to include anyone who believes they are at increased risk for infection.
“We are moving away from tiered eligibility to decrease barriers and increase access to vaccines for Alaskans at risk for monkeypox infection or exposure,” said Department of Health Staff Physician Dr. Lisa Rabinowitz. “The JYNNEOS vaccine that protects against human monkeypox virus is now available in Alaska for anyone who self-identifies as being at increased risk of infection.” That means if you want the vaccination, you can get it.
The new eligibility language appears on the department’s monkeypox webpage.
Monkeypox vaccination is not recommended for the general public, the department said. It it is recommended for those at increased risk for infection. Transmission of monkeypox primarily occurs from close, personal skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash.
The current epidemiology suggests that people with two or more sexual partners and who are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men or transgender people are at increased risk. Data to identify groups at increased risk beyond men having sex with with multiple male or transgender partners are limited.
In addition to those considered at increased risk based on the current epidemiology, others potentially at risk might include sex workers, people with intimate or household contact with men having sex with multiple men/transgenders, and people with increased risk of direct occupational exposure to monkeypox, including some health care workers.
The JYNNEOS vaccine is a two-dose vaccine. People should get the second dose four weeks after the first dose. Protection begins building after the first dose, but people will not have the greatest protection until two weeks after the second dose.
As of Sept. 19, over 450 first doses of JYNNEOS vaccine have been administered in Alaska, according to the Alaska Immunization Program within the Division of Public Health.
People who self-identify as being at increased risk for monkeypox infection should contact their local public health center or call the Alaska COVID and Monkeypox Helpline (hours are 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on weekdays) at 907-646-3322 if they wish to be vaccinated. In Anchorage, Fairweather, LLC is offering the vaccine seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at its Tikahtnu Commons clinic (1130 N. Muldoon Road, Suite 110). People can make an appointment with Fairweather on PrepMod.