With more than 50 monkeypox cases reported, the county has received hundreds of additional doses of vaccine that should be able to serve thousands of residents who have signed up, health officials said Wednesday.
Sean O’Donnell, the county’s public health emergency preparedness manager, said during a news briefing that county officials are still learning how many doses they can get out of 500 vials recently received from the Maryland Department of Health.
The county can get five doses out of one vial if the vaccine is administered intradermally, O’Donnell said. But some people under 18 years old could require a larger dose in order to get the full benefits of the vaccine, so the yield from a single vial isn’t as great, he said.
O’Donnell and Kimberly Townsend — a Department of Health and Human Services official leading the county’s response to monkeypox — noted the state Department of Health now tracks the number of monkeypox cases, a practice that started last week. In Montgomery County, there are 57 cases, which is 12.4% of the total number of cases throughout Maryland.
Baltimore and Prince George’s County both have more, with 133 and 175 cases respectively, according to the state dashboard.
For vaccination distribution, Townsend said county public health officials are currently prioritizing those who have been exposed to people who have contracted monkeypox in the last two weeks or have potentially been exposed. In the coming weeks, those in the community who are at a higher potential risk of exposure will be able to receive the vaccine as well.
O’Donnell said county and state health officials are still determining what risk factors would apply to that latter group.
The county continues to administer monkeypox vaccine at the Dennis Avenue Health Center in Silver Spring, including to those who have been referred from private providers in the county, the officials said. The federal government is working to expand access to Montgomery Cares clinics, sites that are supported by federal and state aid, O’Donnell said.
“What we’ve asked of our providers is that they continue to offer [monkeypox] screening and testing to all of their clients, the way that they do for all health-related risks,” O’Donnell said.
County receives more coronavirus booster shots to combat variants
County health officials also announced they had asked the state for more than 1,000 additional doses of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that will provide an additional layer of protection against variants, particularly the BA.5 variant and similar strains.
James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, said the Food and Drug Administration approved the shots, which are boosters, for emergency use, but the shots still need to be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
County Executive Marc Elrich and health officials continue to urge residents who aren’t fully vaccinated or who have not received booster shots to get the shots because vaccination severely decreases the chance of illness or death. In August, 29 county residents died from COVID-19 — with the great majority of them being unvaccinated, O’Donnell said.
About 90% of the county’s residents are fully vaccinated, O’Donnell noted. County data as of Aug. 20 showed that about two out of every 100,000 residents who died from COVID-19 were unvaccinated, while there were no deaths out of 100,000 residents among those that were fully vaccinated or boosted.