Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department, from left, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo give a joint press conference about growing Monkeypox infections Monday, July 25, 2022, at Houston TranStar headquarters in Houston. They asked the federal government for additional vaccine doses due to rising, but still relatively small, numbers of cases. “We need more vaccine,” Turner said. He said they were watching growing caseloads in other major American cities.
Houston has lifted its pause on booking new appointments for the monkeypox vaccine, after receiving word late Thursday night from the feds that it will receive 16,780 doses in coming weeks.
The news comes just eight hours after the Health Department paused new slots, citing a short supply. The city has received about 5,300 doses to date, enough to fully vaccinate 2,650 people with the two-shot regimen. It gave Harris County 1,500 doses and has booked 1,146 appointments through Aug. 8.
The 16,780 shots, more than triple the city’s current supply, will come over the next few weeks, according to the mayor’s office. The federal government had cleared about 800,000 doses nationally Wednesday, and Houston will get its additional shipments from that batch.
Houston currently is reserving the shots for people who have been exposed to confirmed cases, and for people considered to be at higher risk of contracting the virus. They include: people who have been diagnosed with syphilis or gonorrhea in the last three months, people who take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, or who attended or worked at a commercial sex venue or other venues where they had anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners.
It was not clear Thursday night if the city would broaden its criteria with a larger supply. Health Director Stephen Williams said earlier this week the city likely would do that if it secured more vaccines.
The World Health Organization over the weekend declared monkeypox a global health emergency. Monkeypox for years has been endemic in certain parts of Africa but in recent months has spread worldwide, with most cases among men who have sex with men.
Symptoms include a rash or sores that can look like pimples or blisters, fever, headache, weakness, chills, swollen lymph nodes and, in some cases, severe pain. 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 they have monkeypox symptoms such as new unexplained rash or sores need to contact their doctor to set up a screening appointment.
Dylan McGuinness covers City Hall and local politics for the Houston Chronicle. He initially joined the paper through the Hearst Journalism Fellowship program after covering the same beats for the San Antonio Express-News.
McGuinness previously covered the Rhode Island statehouse for the Associated Press and breaking news for the Boston Globe. He grew up in Connecticut, graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, and is a die-hard Red Sox fan.
Before the world knew Brittney Griner as the WNBA star at the center of an international scandal, Houston knew her as a local basketball phenom.