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State Rep. Smith calls on the federal government to make available more monkeypox vaccine

vaccine syringe

Orange County residents who have been exposed to the monkeypox will be able to make appointments to get the vaccine starting this week at the department of health. 

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith says he’s calling on the federal government to make more monkeypox vaccine available, including to people who have not had a direct exposure to the disease.

Smith, a Democrat from Orlando, says the virus is currently being allowed to spread unchecked among gay and bisexual men in the area.

“Getting this right is an LGBTQ issue because of the fact that we are disproportionately impacted as gay and bi men,” says Smith, the first openly gay Latino member of the Florida Legislature.

Smith reiterates the federal government needs to send more monkeypox vaccine to Florida.

“We need to continue pushing the federal government to increase supply and increase stockpiles specifically to Florida and we need to make sure that we do everything that we can to broaden the availability to the impacted population which is men who have sex with men.”

The federal government is taking a phased approach to distributing vaccines as it ramps up supplies. Last week, the Biden administration announced plans to begin shipping another 780,000 shots.

By mid-July, Florida had received about 25,000 doses of the vaccine, which were distributed through county health departments for use by local providers.

Orange County residents who have been exposed to the monkeypox will be able to make online appointments to get the vaccine starting this week at the county Department of Health.

There have already been more than 20 cases of monkeypox in Orange County. The majority of cases have been in men who have sex with men, health officials say.

In Hillsborough County, eight confirmed cases were reported as of Thursday. Health officials in the county say they have enough supplies to serve individuals who qualify for them under federal guidelines.

In Hillsborough, there are enough shots to meet demand for those groups, according to public information officer Ryan L. Terry.

“There is no vaccine shortage because we are right in line with the phased approach that the CDC has laid out that we are following,” he said. “So anybody that does fall within those criteria, will be able to get the vaccine.”

Hillsborough is administering the JYNNEOS vaccine, and offers it to the following individuals:

  • Known contacts who are identified by public health via case investigation, contact tracing, and risk exposure assessments
  • Presumed contacts who may meet the following criteria:
  • Immunocompromised men who have sex with men with HIV (< 200 CD4 white blood cells per ml3) with potential exposure
  • Laboratory personnel and select health care personnel at high risk for monkeypox
  • All other men who have sex with men with HIV or a history of STDs who had a potential exposure
  • Know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox
  • Had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox

Monkeypox, also known as hMPXV, has been spreading across the U.S. since May. As of Friday, there have been over 5,100 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus causes similar symptoms to smallpox, like a rash, fever and headache. It's transmitted through close physical contact and it's rarely fatal. Although anyone can get infected, the outbreak appears to have largely affected men who have sex with other men.

San Francisco and New York state have declare the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency.

Health authorities in San Francisco, New York and other large cities say they still don't have enough shots to meet demand. But Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra says the federal government has provided vaccines, tests and drugs “well beyond” what is needed.

Information from the Associated Press and NPR was used in this report.

Danielle Prieur
Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.