People lined up Friday at a pop-up vaccination clinic in D.C. for the monkeypox vaccine, hoping to mitigate the infection risk. Dr. Anthony Fauci says people should be aware of the virus but not panic.
The federal government declared monkeypox a public health emergency Thursday to bolster the response to the outbreak that has infected more than 7,100 Americans. The announcement will free up money and other resources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body, The Associated Press reported.
This “all hands on deck” approach, Fauci said, will synergize all the different elements in responding to this “significant and serious outbreak.”
Fauci said he believes monkeypox can be controlled, and there are four reasons for that. First, testing has been increased from 6,000 per week to 80,000 per week due to the involvement of at least five commercial firms.
And what were originally 136,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine deployed have been increased within a few days to over 600,000, with the goal of 1.1 million doses. Fauci said it’s still not as much as what’s wanted or needed, but the process is accelerating.
Also, the process for health care providers to get TPOXX, an early treatment for people with monkeypox, has been accelerated, making it easy for a physician to quickly get the drug without going through many hoops, Fauci said.
Lastly, Fauci said there’d been a strong outreach to the community.
‘Protect myself as best as I can’
Hazel Johnson, a D.C. resident, was one of the people who came to the pop-up vaccine clinic on Georgia Avenue NW. She found out about the clinic close to her home and came to get one of the 300 vaccines the District offers at each vaccination location on Fridays.
Johnson said she is not concerned about monkeypox because she does not know anybody who’s gotten monkeypox in the D.C. region.
“But I’m going to protect myself as best as I can so that I don’t have to worry about it. I have a lot of travel coming up. So, I want to make sure I’m covered on all the bases,” Johnson said.
Last month, D.C. reported the largest outbreak of monkeypox per capita in the nation. Currently, D.C. has 280 cases, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention count.
Johnson and several residents told WTOP’s DMV Download podcast that the District’s response to the monkeypox outbreak has been pretty good.
D.C. resident George works in nightlife and said he has seen the information about monkeypox and vaccines, and he feels positive about how D.C. has handled it, particularly the availability of vaccines.
“It’s not, like, a big line like it was with COVID. It’s nice, there’s different locations. So far, I approve,” George said, adding that the pop-up clinics would be better and he hopes more days will become available.
Another person who declined to be identified said he tried to sign up online, but the available days were limited, and going to the pop-up clinic seemed like the “only way I can get the vaccine.”
Eddie, another person in line Friday, said the District has made a good effort to open up the walk-in vaccine clinic. He is concerned to a certain extent about the outbreak, and that’s why he’s getting vaccinated.
‘You never blow off an emerging infection’
George said there’s been a lot of stigma on sex workers and people who work in nightlife when it comes to monkeypox. Fauci said pointing fingers is the “worst thing you can do.”
Monkeypox can spread from person to person through direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex, the CDC said.
Fauci said five children have been secondarily infected. “Does that mean that every parent in the country should be terrified? No. Pay attention to it, but don’t panic about it,” he said.
“You never blow off any emerging infection when you don’t know yet where it’s going. So you pay attention to it, you follow it, and you respond to it in an appropriate manner.”
WTOP’s Luke Garrett and Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.