PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — Local health leaders remain steadfast in their response to the monkeypox outbreak in the United States.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says there are 17 cases in Oakland County, 17 in the city of Detroit, 11 in Macomb County, three in Washtenaw County and eight in Wayne County.
"We continue to identify close contacts and vaccinate close contacts," Calandra Green with the Oakland County Health Division said.
Green says they want people with pull and influence to advocate for the monkeypox vaccines. She said that's the best way to protect the community and stop the spread.
Leon Golson has been living with HIV for 30-plus years.
As a man with a compromised immune system, he knew he couldn't afford not to get vaccinated for monkeypox.
"Given that I already have HIV in my body, I don't want anything else complicating or taxing," Golson said. "So if there's something that would prevent acquiring something that would do that, I am all for it."
He says he got the vaccine a week ago and the only side effect he had was pain at the injection site.
The data on monkeypox, or MPV, shows it is primarily spreading among men who have sex with other men, but it is not a sexually transmitted disease.
"Who's eligible to get the vaccine — they don't have to identify which criteria they meet. They only have to attest to that they meet some of the criteria in the eligibility list," Green said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread through:
- Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs or body fluids.
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex.
- Touching items such as clothing or linens that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids. The placenta of pregnant people to their fetus.
"The data is telling us a story and it helps us focus our efforts on the most vulnerable population," Green said.
According to the CDC, anyone who plans to have multiple sexual partners can now get the vaccine.
Also eligible are sex workers, close contacts of people who've been exposed to MPV, those who engage in higher-risk sexual activities and anyone living with HIV.
"That's a good thing that they are expanding eligibility," Golson said.
Unfortunately, it's a double-edged sword because the roughly 6,400 vaccine doses the state currently has in stock could be stretched to vaccinate more than 32,000 people.
"We need more vaccine. We need the release of this vaccine from the strategic national stockpile in order to make our efforts better," Green said.
To preserve supply, the CDC says the vaccine can now be given to high-risk adults intradermally, meaning between the layers of the skin, rather than under the skin.
This will allow providers to get five doses out of a standard one-dose vial.
"The last thing we want to do is lose any public trust," Greene said. "We trust the science and we believe in it and we'll be asking all the hard questions, and the state has been very good with providing us information."
The low supply of vaccine means Golson won't be getting his second dose anytime soon. His doctor told him he has some protection, but the full effect is only achieved with a second dose.
According to experts, the strain circulating in the U.S is mild. But they’re reminding that anyone can get this virus.
Golson says he wishes that was clearer from the beginning.
"From the get-go, they should have targeted everyone with the messaging," Golson said.
Green says Oakland County's monkeypox task force met Wednesday and identified African American men as a hard-to-reach group when it comes to vaccine education.
Golson says it’s a general distrust that dates to a long history of harmful experiments on African American men.
"This brings a lot of that back up," Golson said.
He says a person eligible for the vaccine should go to trusted sources and weigh all of their options.
"Try not to get lost in all the noise that's out there around this," Golson said.
The Oakland County Health Division is partnering with some community organizations to get shots in arms.
Affirmations, located in Ferdale on 290 W. Nine Mile Road is having a vaccination event on Saturday. For more information, visit goaffirmations.org.