9 presumptive cases of monkeypox reported in Shelby County; vaccine efforts ramp up

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Monkeypox cases continue to increase across the country, including right here in the Mid-South.

The Shelby County Health Department has announced at least nine presumptive cases in the county.

Meanwhile, efforts to get the vaccine out to people most at risk are ramping up.

We may soon be seeing more shots going into arms, but it’s not because we have more of the vaccine.

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization Tuesday that will allow healthcare providers to change how it’s administered.

“This is a nice change, I think. It makes sense given the situation,” Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist for Baptist Memorial Healthcare in Memphis, said. “This will allow us to really kind of reach out and give this vaccine to people who are at risk of contracting the infection in the first place.”

The vaccine can now be given to high-risk adults intradermally. That means in between the layers of the skin.

Until now, the vaccine has been given subcutaneously or under the skin.

Dr. Threlkeld said this will allow providers to turn the usual one dose into five.

“It’s kind of like the old-fashioned TB skin test where you make a little blister underneath the skin and raise a little welt, if you will,” he said.

The dose-sparing strategy may free up many more doses of the vaccine, but is it as effective?

The doctors FOX13 spoke to said yes.

“What we are hearing is the efficacy will not be compromised when the method of administration has changed,” Dr. Shirin Mazumder, an infectious disease specialist for Methodist Healthcare in Memphis, said. “But we’re also waiting on more information and that will hopefully roll out as we have more data available.”

Dr. Mazumder said people will need two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart. She said the vaccine is now also available to people under 18.

“If someone under the age 18 gets the vaccine, it still has to be in the traditional, subcutaneous method,” she said.

The Tennessee Department of Health has reported 55 monkeypox cases statewide.

A spokesperson said the state has received just shy of 5,600 doses of the vaccine.

It’s unclear how many of those doses have been administered in Shelby county.