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NEW: Arlington County is setting up public monkeypox vaccine clinics as cases rise

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of monkeypox virus particles (photo via NIAID)

Arlington is now setting up appointment-only clinics to vaccinate against monkeypox as cases continue to rise across the region.

The Virginia Department of Health has expanded access to the monkeypox vaccine to “those groups at increased risk for exposure,” per Arlington health department spokesperson Sondra Dietz, allowing the county to run the clinics.

The Arlington County Public Health Division is now running clinics 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday, by appointment only, Dietz told ARLnow. As of this morning, 511 total doses of monkeypox vaccine have been administered by the county health department, another spokesperson said.

The county is asking anyone is who interested and is eligible to receive the vaccine to fill out the vaccine interest form. The form is open to all Virginia residents and not just Arlingtonians; so far, there is no word on how many people have filled out the form.

Just over two weeks ago, ARLnow reported that the county was not yet planning any clinics due to VDH’s “limited” supply of monkeypox vaccine JYNNEOS. It appears that since that time VDH has started to provide more vaccine supply to individual localities. This has allowed Arlington to proceed with vaccinating those in high-risk groups, not solely those “contacts of known cases.”

“As ACPHD receives new vaccine shipments, we will issue new appointment invitations,” writes Dietz.

To be eligible to get the vaccine in Virginia, an individual must be a Virginia resident and 18 years or older. Per the county and VDH, the criteria to receive the vaccine also include:

Within the last 14 days are:

  • Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners; OR
  • Transgender women and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men; OR
  • Sex workers (of any sex); OR
  • Staff (of any sex) at establishments where sexual activity occurs (e.g., bathhouses, saunas, sex clubs); OR
  • Persons (of any gender or sexual orientation) who attend sex-on-premises venues (e.g., bathhouses, sex clubs)

NOTE: If you had monkeypox, then you likely have some protection against another infection and are currently not eligible to be vaccinated.

The county also noted that eligibility “may change as the outbreak evolves and based on vaccine supply. ”

This comes as the federal government declared monkeypox a “public health emergency” late last week and cases continue to rise across the region.

As of today, VDH is reporting that there are 32 known and confirmed cases of monkeypox in Arlington. That encompasses just under a quarter of all the cases in Virginia. A majority of people who have monkeypox are between 20 and 39 years old and are white or Black, per VDH data.

Of the 145 people with monkeypox in Virginia, all but one are reported to be male.

Number of monkeypox cases in Arlington and Virginia as of Aug. 8 (image via VDH)

Monkeypox is spread primarily through close or intimate skin-to-skin contact. Anyone can get and spread the illness, though there are higher risk groups.

Symptoms usually start appearing a week or two after exposure and can include blister-like rash, fever, body aches, and exhaustion. The symptoms can last 5 to 21 days.

Rates just across in the river, in D.C., remain much higher, with the District having more than double the number of cases than all of Virginia despite having far fewer residents.

Perhaps due to this, D.C.’s vaccine campaign has been far more aggressive than Arlington’s to date, with appointments and walk-up clinics now being available to residents.

However, it does seem like vaccination efforts have increased over improved and increased over the last several weeks, AGLA treasurer Daniel Hays told ARLnow. AGLA is a non-profit organization that supports the LGBTQ community in Arlington and Northern Virginia.

Hays said that last month that he reached out to both Arlington Public Health and Board Chair Katie Cristol to express “frustration” about the inaccessibility of the vaccine and that D.C. was lapping Arlington in these efforts.

Since then, though, vaccinations in Arlington have picked up speed. Both he and a number of others involved with AGLA, Hays said, have gotten their monkeypox vaccine in the past couple of weeks. The process was similar to getting a Covid vaccine in terms of booking an appointment, showing up to a county facility, and getting a shot.

“D.C. was ahead of the game,” Hays said. “But in the tradition of Arlington, once it started, it has flowed seamlessly.”

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