As monkeypox cases grow, state to administer vaccine across 15 sites

Photo of Vincent Gabrielle

The state will administer monkeypox vaccines across 15 sites in response to rising cases, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday.

The number of cases has climbed to 28 in Connecticut. The state will administer 800 doses of the vaccine starting Monday, authorities said, a sharp increase from the couple dozen administered so far.

Lamont, State Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani and representatives of the LGBTQ community gathered in Hartford at the InterCommunity Health Care center to announce the state’s response to monkeypox.

“I have a little sense of déjà vu,” said Lamont in reference to the similarity of the path monkeypox has taken to that of COVID. “New York City is the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States and when New York City sneezes Connecticut catches a cold.”

Patrick Dunn, chair of the LGBTQ Health and Human Services network, urged people to call in either to 211, the state Department of Public Health or to the state Department of Health and Human Services if they were worried about monkeypox.

“Please reach out so that we can not only fight the stigma around the disease but to also make sure we don’t come from a place of misinformation,” said Dunn. “We are excited to continue to work with DPH and the commissioner and governor to ensure everyone in our community can have access to the vaccine they need.”

The governor said that the state was partnering with clinics across the state to distribute vaccines to people who have had close contacts with known cases.

“We have the testing capacity; we need to test everybody that has symptoms going forward. This is back to the days of test and trace,” said Lamont. “If you have been in close personal contact and you’re notified in terms of contact tracing team, come in and get a vaccine.”

Juthani said that the state was partnering with 15 sites to distribute the vaccine to residents of Connecticut.

“If you are 18 and older and if you are a man who has sex with men and have had a contact in the last 14 days you are potentially eligible,” said Juthani. Also, there is no limit for non-LGBTQ men for getting tested or vaccinated if they are close contacts of someone who has tested positive.

The vaccine clinics will be held in Stamford, Danbury, Norwalk, New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford, Hamden, Clinton, Enfield, New London, Middletown, Enfield, Torrington and Willimantic.

Juthani said that any positive cases reported to the state would be interviewed by a local health department for contact tracing. Local health departments would call close contacts to refer them to health care providers for evaluation with the goal of vaccinating them within four days. Close contacts would be monitored for 21 days after identification.

“If you already have monkeypox, if you already have lesions, you are not qualified to receive vaccinations because you are a case,” she said.

Close contacts would mean people who had had skin-to-skin exposure, or contact with sheets, clothing, or other surfaces that may have been in contact with a known case. People living in the same household as a case may be eligible for a vaccine.

Juthani said that the state had been allocated 1778 doses of vaccine from the federal government. Additional doses are expected to be allocated soon.

“We have 800 doses will be going out to people across the state starting Monday,” said Juthani. “Every single day we will ramp that up as much as possible.”

There have been 28 cases identified in Connecticut so far. Most of the cases are among men, almost all of whom are LGBTQ+. The median age is 36, officials said. Juthani stressed that none of the cases had been from exposure due to health care work. No cases had been identified yet that were not exposed via skin-to-skin or shared surfaces. No fatalities have occurred in the United States.

It is not clear whether the state is pursuing a ring vaccination strategy as it would during a smallpox outbreak where close contacts and contacts of close contacts both receive priority vaccination. So faronly close contacts are being prioritized.

“I think we are using the strategy that is best for this particular virus,” said Juthani.