BALLSTON SPA – Saratoga County is one of the first counties in the state to begin administering monkeypox vaccines.
The county’s Department of Health received 300 doses of Jynneos, a vaccine used to prevent monkeypox and smallpox in those who are considered to be at high risk for monkeypox or smallpox. The county scheduled vaccine clinics Tuesday and Wednesday to administer it to those who are eligible.
“This is a proactive step,” said Phil Barrett, Clifton Park supervisor and chair of the health and human services committee on the Board of Supervisors. “We were directed by New York state to provide 300 doses of the monkeypox vaccine as soon as possible. Our team has been assembling a plan and we have two clinics this week. So Saratoga County is fulfilling its responsibility as directed by New York State. There are other counties that received doses.”
A total of 19 people received the Jynneos vaccine at Tuesday’s Saratoga county health department clinic. By Tuesday afternoon, 47 appointments were booked for Wednesday’s clinic.
“We’ve seen a positive response in people signing up to receive the monkeypox vaccine at our clinics. Getting vaccinated is a proactive step those at risk can take to limit the spread of the virus,” said Erin Murray, supervising epidemiologist at Saratoga County Department of Health.
The New York State Department of Health announced a list of counties last week that would be receiving doses of the vaccine. The state DOH reported that while there currently is a limited supply of the vaccine in the United States, more of the vaccine is expected in the coming weeks and months. At the time of the announcement, the state DOH reported 56,000 doses of the vaccine are available nationwide with 8,195 of them allocated to New York by the federal government. The state determined New York City would receive 5,989 of those doses, and the remaining 2,206 doses the state had was to be divided by the state with Suffolk County receiving 750 doses, Westchester County receiving 450, Nassau County receiving 400, Saratoga County receiving 300, Rockland and Sullivan County each receiving 40 doses, and the remaining 226 doses will be used by the state DOH to give to the close contacts of known cases, healthcare workers who are exposed on the job and as they are needed elsewhere throughout the state.
There have been no confirmed cases of monkeypox in Saratoga county, Barrett said.
“New York State determined that there might be people coming from areas where there have been monkeypox cases to Saratoga County, due to the many tourism opportunities that people participate in during the summer months,” Barrett said. “That was the thought process by New York State, that tourism may attract people from other areas where there are cases of the virus. But to this point, there are no known cases of the virus in the county.”
A total of 238 orthopoxvirus/monkeypox cases have been confirmed in New York according to the state health department. There have been 223 confirmed cases in New York City, seven in Westchester County, four in Suffolk County, one in Nassau County, 1 in Sullivan County, one in Chemung County and one in Rockland County.
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that does not usually cause serious illness but can result in hospitalization or death according to the state DOH. Symptoms can include rashes, bumps, blisters around an individual’s genitals, hands, feet, chest or face, as well as flu-like symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, chills, and fatigue which can appear before or after the rash or not at all. It is spread through close physical contact between individuals, which can include direct contact with an individual who has monkeypox, direct contact with monkeypox sores or rashes, contact with respiratory droplets from someone with monkeypox, or contact with objects or fabrics which have been used by someone with monkeypox.
The vaccines distributed in the county follow the guidelines set by the state to determine who is eligible to receive the vaccine at this time Barrett said. According to the state, DOH eligibility currently includes individuals with recent exposure to monkeypox within the last 14 days, those at high risk of recent exposure to monkeypox (including members of the gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming community and other communities of men who have had sex with men and who have engaged in intimate or skin-to-skin contact with others in the past 14 days where monkeypox is spreading) and individuals who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity (including men who have sex with men who meet partners through an online website, digital application or app, or social events such as a bar or party).
Individuals who receive the vaccine this week will be scheduled to get the second dose of it after 28 days, Barret said. He said that while the JYNNEOS vaccine is administered in two doses similarly to some of the COVID-19 vaccines, unlike the vaccines used for COVID, the vaccine for monkeypox and smallpox is not new, and is not being administered through an emergency authorization.
“There’s been a lot of debate over the COVID vaccine,” Barrett said. “The COVID vaccine was an emergency authorization. I think it’s important to let people know that that is not the case with this vaccine. This is not an emergency authorization. This vaccine is intended to treat smallpox as well as monkeypox and it’s been around for quite some time.”