Augusta-area health officials explain monkeypox vaccine

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 11:16 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there are more than 1,000 cases of monkeypox in Georgia, making us No. 5 in cases nationwide.

Now that we have one confirmed case in Augusta, we want to know how the vaccine offers protection.

The monkeypox vaccine is not a new one. Health officials say it’s been around for several years, but right now, only people considered high risk can get it.

“We want to make this as easy as possible,” said District 6 Health Director for Georgia Department of Public Health, Dr. Lee Merchen.

Monkeypox is spreading.

Dr. Rodger MacArthur, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Augusta University, said: “There are over 800 cases confirmed in Georgia. The vast majority, as many of our listeners know, is in Atlanta.”

As cases rise across Georgia, we just saw the first one in Augusta. The vaccine is here too.

Merchen said: “We’ve got running open vaccine appointments this week and in perpetuity.”

The Richmond County Health Department is now administering vaccines, but not for everyone.

“We want to make sure those who are at risk are coming in and getting vaccinated it’s really important,” she said

Not everyone is affected.

“At this time, the outbreak is primarily affecting men who have sex or intimate relationships with other men,” he said.

While anyone can get it, the free vaccine is limited.

“We are really trying to use the limited amount of vaccines we have to target the most vulnerable and at-risk population,” said Merchen.

The shot comes in two doses, and doctors say the vaccines are making a difference.

Which makes people like Walter Santiago confident he did the right thing.

“I learned the importance of getting the vaccine to be preemptive and essentially just part of my self-care and caring about the people around me,” he said.

There are still precautions people can take that are not high risk.

MacArthur said: “Avoid close contact, especially close skin-to-skin contact, avoid touching the lesions, washing your hands relatively frequently.”

Taking those precautions and getting the vaccine can keep the numbers down. Doctors say it will make a difference.

“We are not anticipating anything like the early days of COVID-19,” he said.

For more information, visit Georgia DPH.

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