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Tulsans who are eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine can now make an appointment with the Tulsa Health Department as vaccine rollouts will begin on Monday, August 22, according to Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart.
After weeks of planning, THD will begin administering the Monkeypox vaccine to eligible residents with the goal of setting up regular clinics, Dr. Dart told The Black Wall Street Times on Tuesday.
While the Monkeypox virus has been circulating in some communities in Nigeria for years, a recent outbreak that began in May 2022 has spread to countries not used to dealing with the disease, the World Health Organization has reported.
The Biden Administration has ramped up deliveries of vaccines to states in recent days. Yet, out of the vaccines allocated to each state, Oklahoma has asked for a smaller share of vaccines than any other state, ordering just 24% of what the federal government allocated for the state as of August 10, enough to vaccine roughly 1800 people, according to the Frontier. Only one other state has ordered less than 98% of their allotment.
“We know that we need more vaccines,” Dr. Bruce told The Black Wall Street Times, adding that the current number of vaccines statewide is “probably not” sufficient.
State Health Department responds to concerns over few vaccines
Dr. Dart said he isn’t sure why the state ordered so few vaccines, though there were initial concerns about storage capacity. “That has since changed,” he said.
The Black Wall Street Times reached out to the State Epidemiologist at the Oklahoma State Department of Health to seek an update on accessing more vaccines.
“OSDH is currently working to determine next steps in the JYNNEOS vaccine rollout in Oklahoma,” OSDH public information officer Erica Rankin-Riley told The Black Wall Street Times via email. “We are diligently working with community partners and healthcare providers in Oklahoma to make sure vaccines in the state are distributed equitably and to individuals who meet the criteria for vaccination.”
The Monkeypox virus causes people to develop a rash near the genitals, anus or other areas, such as hands, feet, chest, face or mouth, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The rash might initially look like painful, itchy pimples or blisters that lead to scabs, before healing. Symptoms usually begin within three weeks of exposure, and can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
Monkeypox disproportionately impacts Black Americans
The illness lasts between two to four weeks and can spread through direct contact with the rash or through the sharing of bodily fluids. People may also develop the disease by touching objects, fabrics or surfaces that have come in contact with the disease, and some cases have been known to spread through respiratory droplets.
While anyone can develop the disease, it has primarily impacted men who have sex with men. It also disproportionately impacts Black men. According to the CDC, 11,890 monkeypox cases have been reported in the US as of August 15. Of that, 26% are among Black Americans, mostly identifying as gay or bisexual.
“Right now we only have enough vaccines to focus on people who meet very specific criteria,” Tulsa’s Dr. Bruce Dart said.
That includes someone who has had contact with someone positive for the disease in the last week, someone who attended an event in the last two weeks where a case has been identified, or men who have had multiple sexual partners in the last two weeks.
Eligible Tulsans can now make appointments for monkeypox vaccine
The Biden administration declared a national health emergency due to the growing Monkeypox virus at the beginning of August, and the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for the JYNNEOS vaccine to increase vaccine supply on August 9.
Meanwhile, despite the state reporting only 15 cases as of August 15, viral social media videos taken by people sharing their experience with the disease has many in the LGBTQ wanting a vaccine, even if they don’t fit the current criteria.
When asked how concerned people should be about contracting Monkeypox, Dr. Dart said “that’s something we’re still learning.” Since it’s not transmissible through the air, however, he said it’s much harder to be infected and much less likely to infect nearly as many people as Covid.
“But we know we have at-risk groups.”
To that end, Dr. Dart said he’s hopeful that state and local governments will work to break down barriers to access to treatment for at-risk groups.
“We’re going to continue to serve all who need to be served,” Dr. Dart said.
To schedule an appointment for the monkeypox vaccine in Tulsa, you can visit the Tulsa Health Department website or call 918-582-9355.