VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — As cases of monkeypox spread throughout the country and the commonwealth, public health officials are working to vaccinate those most at risk.

“So far we’ve given that vaccine to just over 200 people in Virginia Beach,” Virginia Beach Health Director, Dr. Caitlin Pedati told 10 On Your Side.

According to the Virginia Department of Heath, of the 122 confirmed cases in Virginia, only one patient is a woman.

Dr. Pedati said Thursday that most cases at this time have been among men who have sex with other men.

“Although that certainly is not the only way you can get it, it really involves close contact with somebody who has that rash, so those blisters that have the virus in them.”

There are currently 17 cases confirmed in the Eastern Region, which includes the Hampton Roads area.

On Thursday, the Biden administration officially declared monkeypox a public health emergency, a move that’s aimed at freeing up emergency funding and improving the distribution of vaccines and treatments.

Dr. Pedati’s team at the Virginia Beach Health Department is fanning out to find those most at risk.
Through contact tracing, conversations at STI clinics, and even by going into neighborhoods, night-clubs or restaurants at-risk individuals are known to frequent.

“And we’ve gotten a lot of success within finding those people, inviting them in for vaccine and having them come and get that done,” Pedati told 10 On Your Side.

The Beach Health Department is also immunizing people from other Hampton Roads cities that are still waiting for vaccines.

The vaccine is distributed based on cases as well as vulnerable population size. The bigger city has more supplies on hand.

As vaccine supply increases in the coming weeks, Dr. Pedati said you can look for community shot clinics such as the ones we’ve seen for Covid or ‘Back to School’ shots.

“The idea is to make things like this as accessible and available for people as possible,” she said.

Meantime, the doctor reassures that for most people, the risk remains low at this time. If you are concerned about your risk, you should talk to your own doctor or public health to help you determine whether you need the vaccine now or if it can wait.

Meantime if you’ve received a smallpox vaccine at any point in your life, you may already have some immunity, but it does wane over time. Health officials encourage residents to talk to doctors again.