Federal government announces monkeypox vaccine allotment for Washington

To help stop the spread of the monkeypox virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced plans on Friday to distribute a limited amount of vaccines to the state of Washington. 

Compared to other states, Washington has a relatively low number of monkeypox cases, so the CDC has only allotted 796 vaccines of the two-dose JYNNEOS shot. Of that allotment, 272 doses have already been distributed to states with known cases and close contacts.

Currently, 15 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox have been identified in Washington state. All but one were King County residents. 

Early cases of monkeypox were identified in people who had recently traveled outside the state. More recently, some people with no history of recent travel have tested positive, meaning they were likely exposed to the virus locally. Investigators say they are working to notify close contacts of these cases.

"The risk to the public is low at this time. Transmission generally requires close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has symptoms of the disease," said State Epidemiologist for Communicable Diseases, Dr. Scott Lindquist. "For people who have had recent contact with someone who tested positive for monkeypox, the vaccine can reduce the chance of developing a monkeypox infection."

Monkeypox vaccines

Due to the limited amount of Phase I vaccine supplies, the government will allocate 56,000 doses, using a tiered distribution strategy that prioritizes states with the highest case rates.

Phase II of vaccine distribution will begin in late July or early August, making 240,000 additional doses available nationwide. Eventually, more than a million doses are planned for distribution across the U.S. 

It is unknown how many additional doses Washington state will receive.

The majority of Phase I doses will be used to vaccinate high- and intermediate-risk close contacts of confirmed and probable cases. Public health officials say they will eventually be able to vaccinate high-risk individuals who have not yet been exposed. 

Without additional supplies from CDC, there are no plans to hold vaccination clinics or distribute vaccines to providers.

RELATED: Here's who should get vaccines for monkeypox

Who is at risk?

Monkeypox can cause flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that can appear anywhere on the body. In the current outbreak, many cases have presented with lesions on the genitals or in the anal area. Some people initially reported rectal pain, with or without flu-like symptoms.

Anyone can get monkeypox, but some people are at a higher risk. Unlike the virus that causes COVID-19, monkeypox is primarily spread through close contact and does not spread through the air over long distances. Brief interactions that do not involve physical contact are generally considered low-risk.

Anyone who is sexually active with multiple partners can be at risk of exposure to monkeypox. Other risk factors may include travel to areas where monkeypox is spreading, close non-sexual contact with a known case or contact with sick animals. 

To protect from monkeypox, DOH recommends practicing safe sex methods and avoiding sexual contact with anyone who has open wounds, sores or rashes.

FILE - The arms and legs of a 4-year-old girl infected with monkeypox.  (BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)

RELATED: CDC expanding monkeypox testing with commercial laboratories


Public health officials encourage anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox, or anyone who has been in close contact with a diagnosed monkeypox case in the last 21 days, to contact a health care provider. 

Infections with this strain of monkeypox virus are rarely fatal. Most do not require hospitalization. To date, no one in the U.S. has died of monkeypox.

People infected with the virus usually recover in two to four weeks, but the disease can be severe for children, immunocompromised people, people with a history of eczema and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Washington has no shortage of testing capacity for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses that includes monkeypox. The Washington State Public Health Laboratory (PHL) has been able to test every suspect case that medical providers have reported. 

"DOH is actively working with local health jurisdictions, tribal partners, and community groups to develop an equitable distribution plan for this vaccine," Lindquist said. "We just need more vaccines."