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County health officials said they have administered about 400 doses of monkeypox vaccine in the county, as the number of cases in Maryland eclipsed 300 this past week. And they’re hoping that recent recommendations from the federal government mean they can spread their existing supply even farther.

Kimberly Townsend — a county Department of Health and Human Services official leading the county’s efforts in addressing the spread of monkeypox — said during a news briefing Wednesday officials are providing vaccine to those who are “known contacts” of people diagnosed with monkeypox. Those people have been identified by public health officials through case investigations, contact tracing and a risk exposure assessment. 

Vaccines are also available to residents who know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox or have had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, the most recent data available, there were roughly 12,700 monkeypox cases nationwide, 349 of which were in Maryland, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. County health officials have said they suspect there are monkeypox cases in the county, but haven’t been notified by the state about a number of cases because of health privacy concerns.

Monkeypox is a disease that can spread from human-to-human contact, and symptoms include fever, headache, sore threat, and a rash, mostly on the face or feet or hands, according to the World Health Organization. WHO declared the disease a “global health emergency” last month.

Sean O’Donnell, the county’s public health emergency preparedness manager, said local officials have enough vaccine doses to last through the end of August. The vaccine requires two doses, with the second dose administered about four weeks after the first dose, health officials have said.

County health officials have asked the state for 2,000 additional doses, which could serve 1,000 people. But O’Donnell and Townsend said the CDC and Food and Drug Administration have recently approved plans for smaller doses to be administered to patients, which could stretch the vaccine supply.  

“There is an intradermal administration of the vaccine that the FDA and CDC have approved and recommended that allows you to use a smaller amount of vaccine,” O’Donnell said. “And when given intradermally in the skin versus subcutaneously below in the skin, it is more effective at providing that immune response — at a smaller dosage, it’s more effective.”

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said the Maryland Department of Health is working with county health officials to administer the monkeypox vaccine using those new guidelines.

He added that monkeypox vaccine manufacturers are trying to ramp up their production, but they’ve needed time to do so because the virus hasn’t spread this much in years. The federal government ordered 2.5 million more monkeypox vaccine doses in July, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced.

“It just takes time for the manufacturers to ramp up their production capabilities to produce those, given [that] you need specialized laboratories and facilities to produce them,” Stoddard said.