S.C., Ga. expand outreach, eligibility for monkeypox shots

Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control is working to end the spread of monkeypox in the Palmetto State by expanding eligibility for the vaccine effective Tuesday.

There are currently 115 cases of the virus in South Carolina, a very different story compared to the nearly 8,000 combined cases in California and New York.

Current data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 20,000 cases nationwide.

As of Tuesday, eligibility in South Carolina is opened up to men who have sex with men as well as those who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, gender fluid or nonbinary. Any person receiving HIV PrEP treatment is also included.

These requirements are less strict than earlier requirements that called for vaccination for those actively engaged with others in the LGBTQ+ community.

But health officials say it is important to note that anyone can get the fever and blister-inducing virus. The risk remains low in South Carolina.

The expanded eligibility comes as a change in the method used to give the FDA-approved vaccine increased the number of doses available. With the change, health officials can now give about five vaccines for every original dose by administering the vaccine less deep into the skin.

The state has received about 4,200 vials of the vaccine from the federal government and DHEC has so far given out about 1,100 doses.

With the new vaccine method, that could mean about 20,000 doses are waiting to be used.

Meanwhile in Georgia

Working to reach out to those who need the shot, the health officials offered on-site monkeypox vaccinations all weekend at City Hall.

Besides being Labor Day weekend, it was Black Pride weekend.

“The priority has been making sure that people know what is it, how is it transmitted, and how do we get treatment,” said Oliver Allen, one of the organizers of the event.

The rising number of monkeypox cases in the Atlanta metro area has left residents and visitors on edge. According to federal officials, Georgia has 1,418 monkeypox cases.

As of right now, the Georgia Department of Public Health said the majority of cases in the state are in men who have sex with men, making vaccination efforts for this group a priority.

“We heard from the White House that Atlanta Black Pride if you will, was a priority location in terms of vaccines. We could not have any better support than the support of our president,” said Allen.

“Approximately 70-80 percent of the individuals diagnosed with monkeypox in Fulton County are Black men, so obviously this is a priority group for us. These large gatherings enable us to perhaps vaccinate large groups of people at one time,” said Dr. David Holland, chief clinical officer for the Fulton County Board of Health.

From reports by WIS and WGCL