Vaccination against monkeypox
We are taking another break from our regularly scheduled Covid program to follow new developments in the monkeypox outbreak. As cases continue to rise, the US is launching a new vaccination campaign.
Monkeypox vaccinations used to be offered only to people with known exposure, but they are now offered to anyone who may have been exposed to the virus.
“In other words, don’t wait to look for a vaccine if you think you’ve been around someone who had it,” my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli told me.
Federal officials said states would receive doses of a safer and newer monkeypox vaccine called Jynneos from the federal stockpile based on a state’s number of cases and the proportion of its population at risk for serious diseases.
The Department of Health and Human Services will provide 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine immediately and will provide a further 240,000 doses in the coming weeks. A further 750,000 doses are expected to be available over the summer, bringing the total to 1.6 million doses by the end of this year.
State health officials can also request supplies of ACAM2000, an older vaccine developed for smallpox that is believed to also protect against monkeypox. However, this vaccine can have serious side effects, some of which can be life-threatening for immunocompromised people, pregnant women, and older adults.
To date, there have been 351 cases of monkeypox in 27 states and the District of Columbia, up from 156 cases a week earlier. Experts believe these numbers are likely to be underestimated.
The goal now should be to quickly contain the virus, but there are a number of obstacles.
“Vaccinations are essential to prevent more people from getting infected and to control this outbreak,” Apoorva said. “But we don’t have enough of it to meet the need – far from it. So it will be a while before they take full effect as a control measure.”
New York City, for example, only had 1,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine on hand. The city’s health department began administering the vaccines at a single clinic last Thursday, but quickly announced it could no longer accommodate walk-ins. As of yesterday, the city was still waiting for more vaccine doses.
Overall, experts said the campaign was too small and too slow to make an impact. The longer it takes to contain the monkeypox outbreak, the researchers warn, the greater the chances the virus will take hold in the United States, particularly among men who have sex with men.
We continue our check-ins with readers whose stories have resonated with many of you. Today we have an update from Tara Chhabra who wrote this note in April 2021 from Saratoga Springs, NY. It has been lightly edited.
Now I’m reading from people who are happily resuming pre-Covid activities like meeting friends and family, socializing or looking forward to attending concerts and eating out. I can not understand at all. Pandemic isolation and introspection has been my sanctuary and bliss. I enjoyed the relief provided by masks, not being judged for my looks, getting a break from scrutiny because I wasn’t smiling enough. I mourn all of this. I fear having to fake sociability again in order to be accepted in life and at work, to conform to the normality of the majority by re-acclimatizing.
I called Tara recently to find out how she’s doing. “At the time I wrote that I just came out of remote work, I was really stressed out by the whole idea of having to go back to in-person work after a year of being apart,” she told me.
She was the only HR person in her office and was responsible for solving many of the sensitive issues surrounding Covid for more than 100 employees. “I felt really burned out from the whole experience,” she said, “and I didn’t necessarily welcome a return to personal things.”
So she quit.
“I was like, ‘You know what? Life is short and I want to do something different,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what, but I know I don’t want to continue like this. It was frightening. It was kind of like a grieving process. It was letting go of who I had been.”
It took Tara a few months to explore her passions. She wrote more and submitted her work to newspapers. She has become bolder, she said. She let her hair grow.
A year later, she now has more empathy for people trying to find some semblance of normality in their lives after being vaccinated, she said. She also gets out more, albeit with some precautions.
“We kind of adapted,” she said. “We go to concerts, but these are usually smaller venues. We go out to restaurants, but usually outside of business hours.” Conclusion: Social events are conducted on their terms. So is life.
“I wish that had happened when I was in my 20s,” Tara said. “I think I would have made many different life choices. I’m meant to please people and be an empath, and I think being physically and socially separated from others has helped recalibrate things a bit for me. Not that I’m any more selfish, but I’m just more confident in myself and less afraid to ask for what I think I need, want and deserve.”
What else are we tracking?
What you are doing
My 3 year old was vaccinated a few days ago. I had primed him for how it might feel, and I worked hard to maintain my calm, usual demeanor as we walked inside. This cute little kid hopped on the table, got the injection and didn’t even cry. But me? I totally cried. I think it was the relief, the possibilities of what being fully vaccinated as a whole could mean for my family. To all the other pandemic parents of young children who have sacrificed so much to protect their families: I see you. It’s our time! Let’s do playdates and birthday parties and museums and make normal toddler parent friends. I can’t wait to meet you!
— Lacey Ladd, Indianapolis, Indiana.
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