Multnomah County races to vaccinate for monkeypox

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 5:53 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Multnomah County has 43 known cases of the monkeypox virus or hMPXV, the most out of any county in Oregon.

The Oregon Health Authority reports 72 known monkeypox cases statewide as of Aug. 2.

Officials with Multnomah County Public Health are racing to vaccinate those most at risk and reduce the stigma on communities being hit hard by the virus.

About 1,000 people have gotten their first dose of the monkeypox vaccine in Multnomah County since early July, according to a county spokesperson. Most of those vaccines are being administered through appointments by the county health department.

The JYNNEOS vaccine for monkeypox has had full FDA approval for the last couple of years. Carlos Negrete got his vaccine just this past weekend in Portland and says he jumped at the chance to get it.

“It was pretty quick, I felt a little bit of pain the next day, but other than that it was pretty painless,” he said.

Those in charge of the local vaccination effort say people in the LGBTQ+ community, particularly men who have sex with men, are being prioritized for first doses. All known cases in Oregon right now have been found in men, and similar trends are being reported nationwide. Public health officials stress the virus can impact anyone, it just happens to be prevalent in urban gay communities right now. Negrete feels having an honest conversation about who the virus is impacting at the moment will prevent another pandemic.

“It’s just the beginning,” he said. “If we don’t do something about it, and if we put a stigma on it, it’s only going to make this get to other communities a lot faster.”

Public health officials say monkeypox spreads through skin-to-skin contact with the rashes or sores of someone infected with the virus, or contact with bedding that may have touched an infected person. Negrete encourages all those in the area who may be eligible to try and get vaccinated, and not be hesitant because of the stigma surrounding the virus.

“Reflect on why you have those reservations. If it’s because of the stigma or you really feel like you’re not at risk,” said Negrete. “And if it’s because of the stigma, I would highly encourage that person to reconsider that.”

For public health officials racing to vaccinate, it’s an eerily similar sight to the early days of Covid, but they’re ready to help and get shots into arms.

“We’re fatigued I would say,” said Multnomah County Communicable Disease Director Kim Toevs. “But people have really stepped up and leaned in and rallied. There’s a really high level of concern, and we want to make sure that’s not panic or anxiety that’s irrational.”

Toevs says her team is working as quickly as possible to get as many vaccines into the county so vaccinations can expand to primary care providers, not just public health clinics.

Public health officials have also raised concerns about monkeypox in childcare facilities, people who have to touch others for their work like massage therapists, nail or hair stylists, or people in the service industry who handle laundry.

Multnomah County Public Health has a call center where anyone can call for information on monkeypox, and see if they are eligible for vaccines: (503) 988-8939

More information about monkeypox and vaccines can be found here.