Monkeypox cases are down in Baltimore as vaccine eligibility expands

Published on: October 18, 2022 6:59 PM EDT|Updated on: October 19, 2022 9:44 AM EDT

Baltimore Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa address the public during a press conference Tuesday Oct. 18, 2022.

Monkeypox cases are down in Baltimore since eligibility for the vaccine has expanded, city Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said Tuesday while at the site of a new clinic where more doses will become available.

As many have looked for a place to get vaccinated against the disease, which is similar to smallpox, more appointments will be offered to residents at Nomi Health, located at 419 W. Baltimore St.

So far, 1,230 city residents have received at least the first of a two-dose vaccine as of Oct. 12, Dzirasa said.

“The [Maryland] health department began vaccinating high-risk individuals since July, while we have been vaccinating the close contacts of cases since late June,” Dzirasa said. “Over the past several weeks, the health department has also distributed 170 vials of [monkeypox] vaccine to clinical partners to administer to their patients who meet eligibility criteria.”

Monkeypox is a rare but contagious illness that causes a rash that can last for weeks. Other symptoms can include a fever, aches, chills, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes and respiratory difficulties, such as a cough or sore throat.

The disease can spread by prolonged contact with an infected person’s rash or bodily fluids, or through respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact. Though not a sexually transmitted infection, monkeypox can be spread through intimate contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex, according to the CDC.

Monkeypox also can spread through skin contact with fabrics and surfaces that have been used by someone who is infected.

Baltimore has identified 225 current cases, with 692 cases statewide. Maryland spotted its first presumed case in mid-June and began doling out vaccinations to residents who had come into close contact with the virus shortly after.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially gave the state 3,300 vaccine doses in late July, with Baltimore receiving 200. To date, the Baltimore City Health Department has received a total of 1,225 vials from the state health department since June 2022 in four separate deliveries.

In late September — around the same time the CDC expanded eligibility — the dosing method switched to the intradermal vaccination for the disease, allowing up to five doses, though clinicians have reported having probelms with getting up to five doses from each vial, according to city health officials.

Of the doses delivered, 170 were provided to clinical partners, an additional 149 were used through a partnership between the city health department and Chase Brexton, and 349 have been used by health department clinics and contact tracing activities.

Baltimore has the highest case count of any area in the state, yet a low vaccination rate compared to surrounding areas. A Baltimore Banner data analysis found that Washington, D.C., health officials vaccinated people against monkeypox at a rate at least 56 times higher than Maryland.

Since last month, vaccine eligibility has changed from those who had potentially been exposed to monkeypox in the prior two weeks to anyone who has had multiple or unknown sexual partners in the past two weeks, or who has had any potential exposure.

Eligible residents may now visit the city’s clinical partner, Nomi Health, in addition to the city’s health department.

“Today marks the first day of vaccinations through our newly launched MPX clinic being done in partnership with Nomi Health,” Dzirasa said.

Monkeypox vaccines are also administered by the AIDS Health Care Foundation, Baltimore Medical System, Sinai Infectious Disease Associates and University of Maryland Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, in addition to the city’s health department.

If the vaccine is not available to residents through their health care provider, they can preregister for the vaccine here.

The city will be contacting individuals from the Maryland Department of Health preregistration list once appointments become available, according to the city’s website.