The federal government has told Louisiana it can expect 7,200 more doses of the monkeypox vaccine to arrive in three different batches over the next four to six weeks. That’s on top of the approximately 2,000 doses the state has already received, for a total of 9,200 doses overall.
State health officials said the allocation isn’t sufficient to meet Louisiana’s needs or demand for the vaccine, especially among gay and bisexual men. With 9,200 doses, the state will be able to fully vaccinate about 4,600 people. Each person is supposed to get two shots 28 days apart.
“It’s better but it’s definitely not enough,” said Aly Neel, spokesman for the health department, about the increase.
Almost all monkeypox cases in the United States have been found in men who have sex with men, though health experts stress that anyone, regardless of their sexual history, can contract the virus.
This strain of monkeypox is thought to be spread through intimate touching or skin-to-skin contact, but those interactions don’t have to be sexual. They might include cuddling or close dancing. The virus could also spread through the bedding or linens of an infected person.
While the illness has spread mostly among men who have sex with men, a small group of women and at least two children have also contracted it in the United States. Health experts said a wider swath of the population could become vulnerable if the current outbreak isn’t brought under control.
On Friday, Louisiana had confirmed 38 cases of monkeypox, 29 of which are in New Orleans or the parishes that immediately surround it.
With a limited amount of vaccine, state health officials have restricted access to just people have had a direct exposure to a person infected with monkeypox as well as men who have had sex with more than one man or an anonymous man in the past 14 days. Sex workers, their clients and men who have had sex with men in social settings over the previous 14 days also qualify.
Neel said the state doesn’t anticipate expanding eligibility for the vaccine in the coming weeks because Louisiana is expected to receive so few doses at this point.
Gay men have been clamoring for the shots, however. Some have spent days calling around for a vaccine appointment and have described a distribution process that is both confusing and disorganized. A few men have already decided to leave the state – traveling to Houston or even New York – to try and get inoculated elsewhere.