Houston Health Department to begin intradermal monkeypox vaccination Tuesday

Eligibility criteria expanded to people diagnosed with HIV

HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department on Tuesday will switch to intradermal monkeypox vaccination, an injection just under the skin, and expand eligibility criteria to the estimated 26,000 people living with HIV in Houston and Harris County.

“We are eager to protect many more people in our community,” said Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston. “We hope to avoid the high number of cases that other large cities are currently reporting.”

Changing to intradermal administration of the JYNNEOS vaccine follows revised clinical guidance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD) and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The department has vaccinated 2,942 people subcutaneously, injecting the medication into the tissue layer between the skin and muscle.

More than 800 people received their first doses this past weekend at a special clinic that the department organized to progress quickly through booked vaccination appointments. The department has also coordinated with local physicians to ensure vaccination for another 242 people.

The department for about two months has strongly advocated for additional vaccines from the federal government and will continue to do so. The federal government has allotted 16,780 doses in separate shipments for Houston and Harris County.

This week the department expects to receive a second shipment of about 10,100 doses. It received the first shipment totaling 6,740 doses on August 2.

Delivery of the second shipment will boost the department’s inventory to 21,301 doses. The monkeypox vaccination regimen is two doses given four weeks apart.

The department in late July received 5,024 doses separate from the current allotment. It provides 30 percent of all shipments to Harris County Public Health.

Houston currently has 265 confirmed cases. Most of the cases are among gay, bisexual men or men who have sex with men.

Monkeypox vaccine has not been widely available nationwide. However, widespread vaccination is not recommended at this time.

Groups prioritized by the department for monkeypox vaccination are:

  • People confirmed to have had high- or intermediate-risk contact with someone with monkeypox.
  • People who attended an event or venue where there was a high risk of exposure to someone with confirmed monkeypox virus through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. The department works with event or venue organizers to identify people who may have been present and at risk of exposure while at the venue.

Other groups receiving vaccination priority are people age 18 and older who:

  • are men who have sex with men, and have had multiple or anonymous sex partners within the previous 21 days,
  • have a sex partner suspected of having monkeypox, such as a rash or sores,
  • are HIV positive or on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or
  • have had a diagnosis of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or early syphilis within the previous 3 months.

The threat of monkeypox to Houston’s general population remains low. Monkeypox is rare and doesn’t spread easily between people without close, personal, skin-to-skin contact.

Symptoms include a rash or sores that can look like pimples or blisters and may be extremely painful, fever, headache, weakness, chills and swollen lymph nodes.

Monkeypox can spread from person to person through prolonged face-to-face contact, intimate contact and or close contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. Contact with items such as clothing or linens that previously touched the rash or body fluids is another way monkeypox spreads.

The illness usually lasts two to four weeks. It can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash fully heals and a fresh layer of skin has formed.

People who suspect that they have monkeypox symptoms such as new unexplained rash or sores need to contact their doctor to set up a screening appointment.

For more information about monkeypox, prevention tips and resources, visit houstonhealth.org or call the department’s call center at 832-393-4220.