PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island is expanding its efforts to vaccinate against monkeypox, opening vaccine eligibility to additional at-risk populations.
To date, Rhode Island has been vaccinating only people who are identified as close contacts of someone who tested positive for monkeypox. As of Wednesday, Rhode Island has expanded vaccine eligibility to include people who are 18 or older and are men who identify as gay, bisexual, queer, or who have sex with men and/or transgender individuals, and have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 30 days.
People of any sexual orientation or gender identity can become infected with monkeypox.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distributed a limited supply of vaccine, which is known as JYNNEOS, to 10 states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts in late July. To date, 25 cases of monkeypox have been identified in Rhode Island, among the more than 5,100 cases in the United States, according to the state health department.
However, the vaccine is in short supply nationally. JYNNEOS is a two-dose vaccine series. Those who are vaccinated at community clinics will receive information about where and when they can receive their second dose, which takes place approximately 28 days later.
Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman with the state health department, told the Globe that Rhode Island received 950 initial doses to date, which was enough to vaccinate 475 people. Rhode Island received an additional 900 doses this week.
“Because we had such limited supply, we had been focusing our vaccination efforts on close contacts of cases,” Wendelken said.
“Using the clinical judgement of staff and eligibility guidance from [the Rhode Island Department of Health], these sites will be contacting existing patients about vaccination,” said a news release from the governor’s office.
People can pre-register for these clinics online. Those who cannot pre-register online can call 401-222-5960. Those who do not pre-register will not be vaccinated at these clinics, according to the health department.
In addition, the state health department announced Wednesday that two new community clinics will be hosted this later this week for eligible people who cannot be vaccinated at one of the health care facilities that are vaccinating patients in Rhode Island.
The first clinic will take place on Friday at Rhode Island College’s Alger Hall at 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue in Providence from 4 to 8 p.m. The second clinic will be on Saturday at the Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School at 375 Adelaide Avenue in Providence from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“While we are making monkeypox vaccine available as soon as it comes into the state, there is still more demand than supply right now in Rhode Island and across the country,” said Interim Director of Health Dr. Utpala Bandy in a statement.
An individual can become contagious when symptoms first appear, which can include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, in the mouth, and on other parts of the body such as hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
Transmission can occur through close physical contact with body fluids, monkeypox lesions, or items that have been contaminated with fluids or materials like bedding or clothing. Respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact can also cause monkeypox to spread.