Wisconsin expands monkeypox vaccine eligibility

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- Wisconsin is expanding the number of groups eligible for a monkeypox vaccine.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) made the announcement Tuesday while also releasing data that shows monkeypox is beginning to level off in Wisconsin.

The latest data confirms 63 cases of monkeypox in Wisconsin. DHS says it's now taking steps to ensure those with an elevated risk can get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The monkeypox vaccine is given in two doses, two weeks apart. The shots are now available to people of risk of continuous exposure.

The list includes those found to be at risk through contact tracing, anyone who attended an event with someone who has tested positive, those with a sexual partner diagnosed in the past 14 days, including gay and bisexual men, trans men and women, and those with multiple sexual partners. Clinical lab personnel and health care providers working in sexual health clinics are also on the list.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, DHS chief medical officer, says it's too soon to tell if more groups will need to be added to the list in the future, but right now cases are starting to level off.

"I think in the best-case scenario, most of the people who have been in the highest risk groups receive vaccine and very little monkeypox virus is circulating in the community, that would be a good outcome..it may not be necessary for many additional people to get the vaccine. We won't know that probably for the next couple of weeks or months," said Dr. Westergaard.

DHS is also calling attention to disparities in Wisconsin. Overall, 50% of the cases were reported in communities of color. Of those communities, only about 20% self-reported as "non-white" when getting the monkeypox vaccine.

"We've been trying to leverage and strengthen the relationships we've been building over the years to try to address these structural inequities in health care and health outcomes. Unfortunately, the data shows what it shows. So, we still have a long way to go," said Dr. Westergaard.

Health officials say it's important to know your risk and get tested if you've been exposed. Globally, monkeypox is still widespread, especially in places with less vaccine supply than the U.S.

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