As cases climb, city gets thousands of additional Monkeypox vaccines

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.
Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner/CDC via AP

An additional 25,963 doses of the monkeypox vaccine are now available at mass vaccination sites across the city, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced earlier this week. This comes in addition to the 21,500 treatments the Big Apple has already received from the federal government as of July 14 — and as the virus continues to spread at a rapid rate.

According to the Health Department, the treatments will help slow the spread of the virus, a disease that rarely appears outside Africa but has infected nearly 800 people since the first New York City diagnosis was made at Bellevue Hospital in May.

As of July 21, the health department reported 778 cases in the city, twice that of the reported 336 cases a week prior. Breakdowns by borough are not currently available.

“We appreciate the additional vaccines from the federal government and continue to push for more doses to be allocated to NYC, which is the current epicenter of the monkeypox outbreak in the U.S.,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “The Department has the capacity to get these doses to New Yorkers quickly and we look forward to announcing our distribution plans in the days ahead.”

Since the virus reached New York, local leaders have been working to curb the outbreak with testing centers and a comprehensive public education campaign, but vaccine doses are limited — and there are currently just three mass vaccination sites, according to city’s Health Department (among them, Brooklyn’s Bushwick Educational Campus).

Still, city and state officials appear optimistic, and Governor Kathy Hochul expects more vaccines to be sent in the coming weeks to make sure all eligible New Yorkers get both doses needed to be considered fully vaccinated.

“New York continues to face a disproportionate number of monkeypox cases,” Hochul said in a statement. “I want to thank President Biden, Dr. Jha and other Administration officials for their partnership to secure additional vaccines for our state. While the national supply remains limited, we will continue our efforts to confront this outbreak with the urgency needed to ensure that New York receives its fair share of vaccines and protects our most vulnerable communities.” 

According to the New York State Department of Health website, eligibility for the vaccine includes individuals with recent exposure to monkeypox within the past 14 days, those at high risk of a recent exposure to monkeypox, and those who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox (or orthopoxvirus) is a rare but contagious infection that began spreading in the U.S. and several other central and western African countries. While the disease first appeared in 1958 in monkeys and began affecting humans in 1970, cases started to re-emerge in the U.S in November 2021. It specifically affected patients who had recently traveled out of the country.

The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with sores or rashes from someone who has been infected or through contact with clothing, bedding and other items used by those infected, according to the Health Department. Symptoms include swollen lymph glands, chills, fever, and fatigue.

For more information on the virus, or to find a vaccination site near you, click here.