HealthThe Examiner

Westchester County Receives 450 Monkeypox Vaccine Doses From State

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Westchester County has received an extremely limited number of monkeypox vaccine doses from New York State to help the most vulnerable population ward off potential complications from the virus.

County Executive George Latimer said Monday that Westchester received 450 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine from the state Department of Health (DOH) via the federal government that will be administered only by several major health providers and the county. Those include 100 doses each to Open Door Medical Centers, Westchester Medical Center, White Plains Hospital and St. John’s Riverside, Latimer said.

The overwhelming number of New York State’s 174 monkeypox cases are in New York City. As of last Friday, the only other cases in the state were six in Westchester, four in Suffolk County and one each in four other counties.

Latimer said that there is no public distribution of the doses, only through the aforementioned medical providers for vulnerable individuals and those with known exposure because of the limited supply, extremely low level of infection and generally the lack of serious illness. It is passed on by skin-to-skin contact while COVID-19 is an airborne disease, he said.

“It is inevitable that we’ll make comparisons between monkeypox and COVID because we’re still in the two-and-a-half-year period of the COVID pandemic, but there really is no significant comparison between these two diseases,” Latimer said.

The first Westchester monkeypox case was reported by the state DOH on June 16.

At the time, the DOH reported that monkeypox is a rare viral illness that rarely causes serious illness, although in unusual instances can result in hospitalization or death. Monkeypox typically begins with a flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to a rash on the face and body. Most infections last two to four weeks.

The state DOH reported on July 7 that there were about 56,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine available nationwide from the federal government, which were being allocated to the states. New York received 8,195 of those doses with nearly 6,000 going to New York City. In addition to Westchester, Suffolk County was provided 750 doses, 400 went to Nassau County, 300 to Saratoga County and 40 each to Rockland and Sullivan counties.

The DOH was holding onto 226 doses to use for close contacts of known cases and healthcare workers who are exposed on the job.

According to DOH, those eligible to receive the monkeypox are people with exposure within the past 14 days; those at high risk of a recent exposure to monkeypox, including members of the gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming community and other communities of men who have sex with men and who have engaged in intimate skin-to-skin contact with others in the past 14 days in areas where monkeypox is spreading; and people who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity.

“Now that we have received an initial batch of the JYNNEOS vaccine for community distribution, we will get this limited supply to those who are most at risk, while advocating for more,” state Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement last week. “As we expand our public education efforts, we will continue to provide the infrastructure, guidance and resources for local county health departments, healthcare providers and community-based organizations statewide, so together we can protect our communities against monkeypox and mitigate spread.”

COVID-19 in Holding Pattern

Active cases of COVID-19 have fallen into a fairly narrow range in Westchester in recent weeks as some concerns have surfaced over the latest variant, BA.5.

Westchester is reporting 3,356 active cases as of the end of last week, Latimer said. Over an extended period of time, the county’s active cases have remained between 2,500 and 3,500, he said.

The good news is that the fatality rate in the county has fallen to less than 1 percent, meaning that fewer than one in 100 cases have ended in death since the start of the pandemic, Latimer noted. The presence of the vaccine and greater knowledge on how to protect the public has likely led to the plummeting rate.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccines are available for children six months to five years old by appointment only on Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon at the County Health Department clinic at 134 Court St. Children from five to 12 years old can also receive vaccines at the clinic on Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m., also by appointment only.

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