RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Health has expanded eligibility for who can get the monkeypox vaccine.

The new criteria is line with CDC recommendations, VDH says. Due to limited supplies, health care providers have been prioritizing the JYNNEOS vaccine for men who have sex with other men, who are considered at highest risk of contracting monkeypox. Those who contract monkeypox report close, sustained contact with someone else who has the disease.

So far, there have been 295 cases of monkeypox reported in Virginia, 183 in the Northern Virginia area.

“While anyone can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone with monekypox, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, many of those affected in the current global outbreak are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men,” VDH said in a statement. “While this level of monkeypox activity is unexpected, the risk to the general population is low. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained contact with other people who have monkeypox.”

The expanded criteria now includes:
●       People, of any sexual orientation or gender, who have had anonymous or multiple (more than one) sexual partners in the past two weeks; or
●       Sex workers or any sexual orientation or gender; or
●       Staff, of any sexual orientation or gender, at establishments where sexual activity occurs, such as bath houses, saunas and sex clubs.

“The highest risk activity currently is having sex with multiple or anonymous partners; avoiding these activities greatly reduces one’s risk of catching or spreading monkeypox,” VDH says. “Monkeypox does not spread from person to person from walking past someone who is infected or through casual conversation with someone who is infected.”

Virginia still has a limited supply of vaccine doses, but you can look up availability through their locator tool. To date, VDH says it’s received 15,282 vials of the JYNNEOS vaccine and has redistributed 8,899 vials to the commonwealth’s 35 health districts.

The first community vaccine clinic in Hampton Roads will be August 27 at The Wave on Colley Avenue in Norfolk.

“Initial symptoms of the disease often include flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes, followed by skin lesions, VDH says. “However, some people have a rash without other symptoms. Although the majority of cases don’t require hospitalization, it is contagious and can be painful. If you have a rash that resembles monkeypox, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to get tested. Treatment is available for those at risk of severe illness.”

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