Registered pharmacist Sapana Patel holds a bottle of Monkeypox vaccine at a Pop-Up Monkeypox vaccination site on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in West Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

Registered pharmacist Sapana Patel holds a bottle of Monkeypox vaccine at a Pop-Up Monkeypox vaccination site on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in West Hollywood, Calif. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

State expands monkeypox vaccine eligibility

More than 450 first doses of the vaccine have been administered in Alaska as of Monday

Eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine in Alaska was expanded on Monday to include all who “self-identify as being at increased risk for infection,” according to a press release from the State Department of Health.

According to the press release, more than 450 first doses of the vaccine have been administered in Alaska as of Monday.

Previously, access to the JYNNEOS vaccine that protects against monkeypox infection was recommended to Alaskans based on a two-tier system.

That system included people who were notified of an exposure to monkeypox and men who have sex with men that have who have had multiple partners inthe past six months.

Expanding eligibility to all those who believe they are at risk of infection is a move to increase access for those at risk, according to DOH Staff Physician Dr. Lisa Rabinowitz in the press release.

A key symptom of monkeypox is a rash, commonly located around the genitals or other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face and mouth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other symptoms of the virus include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle aches, headache and respiratory problems like sore throat and cough.

Symptoms usually begin to appear three weeks after exposure, and can last two to four weeks.

The disease is spread through close, personal contact — often skin-to-skin, according to the CDC. This usually occurs through contact with the rash or with bodily fluids from someone with the virus. This contact includes intimate contact — like oral, anal or vaginal sex — as well as hugging or kissing.

The CDC says that people of any gender can be exposed and the virus can be contracted without having sex.

The JYNNEOS vaccine is administered in two doses. Health officials say individuals should receive their second dose four weeks after the first.

According to the press release, the vaccine is available at local public health centers. An Alaska COVID and Monkeypox Helpline can be reached between 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays at 907-646-3322.

The Kenai Public Health Center has the vaccine available and can be reached at 907-335-3400.

The Department of Health has reported five cases of monkeypox in Alaska as of Monday. Four of the five cases occurred in Anchorage. DOH says that fifth is outside of Anchorage.

Nationwide, the CDC reports as of Monday, 23,893 cases have been identified across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. One death has been reported.

More information about the monkeypox virus can be found on the CDC’s website at cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox. Additional information about monkeypox in Alaska can be found on the Department of Health’s website at health.alaska.gov/dph/Epi/id/Pages/Monkeypox.aspx.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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