AKRON, Ohio — Health officials across Northeast Ohio continue to keep a close watch on the monkeypox virus outbreak and the availability of the vaccine.
On Tuesday, Summit County Public Health received its first bath of the vaccines—about 30 vials.
The vaccine will be in limited supply. Like early distribution of COVID-19 vaccine, the monkeypox vaccine is initially being distributed to those at highest risk.
SCPH has created a registration form on its website for those who want to be notified when the monkeypox vaccine is available.
Distribution will be based on a four-tier system: Tier 1 for people at risk for occupational exposure (i.e. lab personnel with high exposure risk) and individuals identified as close contacts or direct exposures, Tier 2 for attendees at events/venues linked to known monkeypox transmission, Tier 3 for individuals with prolonged intimate contact with multiple or anonymous partners and Tier 4 for groups identified with high risk exposure.
"Currently what's noted (for Tier 4) in the United States are gay men, bisexual men or men who have sex with men," said Erika Sobolewski, the medical director.
Sobolewski said the plan is for SCPH to set up a drive-thru vaccination clinic similar to what has been organized for COVID-19 vaccinations.
"Our hope is as soon as possible. Our hope is to get it out there," she said.
As of Aug. 15, there have been 11,890 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States, including 101 cases in Ohio and two in Summit County.
Sobolewski explained the virus is similar but less severe than smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms can includes a pimply rash or blisters and it's spread through skin-to-skin contact.
"It's not necessarily sexually transmitted. It's just people being in the undressed state. There's more skin surface area where potentially a rash can transmit to another person," Sobolewski said.
While health officials are concerned about monkeypox spread, the transmission rate is much lower than COVID-19. The current BA. 5 variant has an 18.7 transmission rate compared to a .5 to 1.2 transmission rate for monkeypox, Sobolewski said.
"So one person has COVID, your chance of spreading it would be to those 18 individuals and your chances of spreading then to monkeypox would just be a half person to maybe on person."
Regardless, with monkeypox cases rising, Sobolewski feels it's important for people to be aware of vaccine options and timing for availability.
"I believe once people know that we have vaccine and know that there's a scheduled amount that there will be more interest."