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Wisconsin health officials expand eligibility for monkeypox vaccine

63 cases of the virus have been identified in the state since July

A patient receives a Monkeypox vaccination
A patient receives a Monkeypox vaccination at a Pop-Up Monkeypox vaccination site at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in West Hollywood, Calif. The City of West Hollywood is working with public health officials at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in responding to the monkeypox outbreak. Richard Vogel/AP Photo

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has expanded eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine to include people who have an elevated risk of exposure to the virus.

Sexual health clinic workers and people with certain sexual risk factors can now get vaccinated whether they’ve had a known exposure to the virus or not.

“We’ve expanded the criteria for people who have not potentially had an exposure in the past, but may in the future,” said Dr. Ryan Westergaard, DHS chief medical officer of the bureau of communicable diseases.

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Previously, vaccine eligibility in the state was restricted to people who had a known exposure, or certain members of the LGBTQ+ community who had multiple sexual partners within 14 days. Most reported cases of monkeypox in the state have been in men who’ve had sexual contact with other men, according to a statement from DHS.

Westergaard said the new eligibility group is more or less the same as the group eligible to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV, and the treatments share a similar goal of reducing transmission before people are exposed.

“People with those sexual risk factors who anticipate being potentially exposed in the future are now eligible for vaccine irrespective of any risk factors they’ve had specifically in the past two weeks,” Westergaard said.

Nationally, cases of monkeypox have declined slightly since August. That plus an increased supply of vaccine doses led to the decision to expand eligibility, said Westergaard.

“We are comfortable that we have a higher level of vaccine available,” he said. “We’re at a point in this epidemic where we hope to be turning the corner and want to make sure as many people who are at elevated risk can get vaccinated as possible.”

Sixty-three cases of monkeypox have been identified in the state since July. According to DHS, nearly 42 percent of those cases have been in Wisconsinites who are Black, yet only 22 percent of vaccines administered in the state have gone to people of color.

There are currently 58 sites in the state administering the vaccine.

Laboratory workers who handle virus samples are also eligible to be vaccinated.

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