Beginning Monday, 15 providers across the state will make monkeypox vaccines available to people who meet the qualifying criteria.
The expanded provider network was announced Thursday as Connecticut’s monkeypox case count reached 28. The cases have been reported across five counties, and all were men, the majority aged 20 to 49. Most occurred in men who identified as LGBTQ+, officials with the state Department of Public Health said.
Connecticut has received 1,778 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, and more are expected.
Starting Monday, qualifying people can contact the 15 Connecticut providers that will administer the vaccine without a referral from a doctor or the health department. People seeking the vaccine can consult with their primary care doctor or call a health center directly to schedule an appointment. Appointments are required; the vaccine is not available to walk-ins.
Health centers in the provider network include Fair Haven Community Health Care in New Haven; InterCommunity Health Care in Hartford; Circle Care Center in Norwalk; Anchor Health Initiative in Hamden; Community Health & Wellness Center in Torrington; and StayWell Health Center in Waterbury.
Community Health Center will also have the vaccine at six of its locations, and Planned Parenthood will make it available at three locations. A full list of health centers will be posted to the health department’s monkeypox web page on Monday.
The vaccine is available to people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and gender non-binary, or to other men who have sex with men. Those seeking a shot must be 18 or older and have had multiple or anonymous sex partners within the last 14 days. People who have had monkeypox likely have some protection against a second infection and are currently not eligible to be vaccinated, health officials said.
Monkeypox can spread through prolonged close contact with an infected person. This might include contact with skin lesions or bodily fluids, sharing clothes or other materials that have been used by an infected person, or inhaling respiratory droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact.
Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, exhaustion, muscle ache and back ache, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters and shows up on the face, hands, feet, chest, genitals or inside of the mouth.
Those who have monkeypox should isolate until rashes have fully resolved, scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed, health officials said. Infected people should avoid close physical contact with others, wear a mask around others in the home, and avoid sharing potentially contaminated items, such as bed linens, clothing, towels, and eating utensils.
“We’ve seen over the last many weeks how this infection has expanded its scope and started to affect the citizens of Connecticut,” said Dr. Manisha Juthani, Connecticut’s public health commissioner. “Anybody who has skin-to-skin contact with somebody who has had monkeypox could potentially get monkeypox. This is not primarily a respiratory disease. It is one that with prolonged face to face contact with somebody is possible, but it’s primarily transmitted by skin-to-skin.”
Monkeypox cases have been recorded in nearly every state. Nationally, 4,639 cases have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“What we’ve seen so far is that there have been no fatalities in the United States, there have been no health care workers who have gotten monkeypox from an exposure to date,” Juthani said. “There’s been nobody on an airplane who’s been exposed to somebody who had monkeypox, who has been infected. These are promising signs, at least in terms of being able to follow and identify cases, and then being able to take care of people appropriately.”
As awareness of monkeypox is raised in Connecticut and elsewhere, LGBTQ+ advocates said state leaders and others must also work to fight any stigma associated with the illness.
“We all need to play a role in sharing information as widely as possible. And we all need to play a role to stop the ugliness of stigma and shame and name calling that already has been happening, especially so that it doesn’t escalate,” said Linda Estabrook, executive director of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective.
Connecticut residents who are concerned about fever, swollen glands or a new rash should contact their health care provider for an evaluation. Medical providers can request orthopoxvirus testing for patients at the state public health laboratory by calling 860-509-7994.