NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Nearly a month since the state’s first presumptive monkeypox case, New Mexico health officials gave an update in a news conference Thursday, reporting on what’s being done to curb the spread. They say that the state is “ramping up” vaccinations.
“There have been zero deaths in the U.S. but it is a public health emergency because it is spreading in the United States and around the world,” New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) Deputy Secretary and Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Laura Parajón, said in a press conference Thursday. “There’s a total number of 6,617 cases in the US now. We only have 10 cases in New Mexico.”
So far, officials say all 10 cases were acquired outside of New Mexico. But viral spread within New Mexico is certainly possible in the future, they say.
Anyone can become infected if they come into close contact with a sick individual. “Anybody can get monkey pox regardless of sexual orientation, gender or gender identity,” Parajón says, dispelling myths that it only affects people of certain sexual orientations.
So while across the nation, monkeypox has been more common among men who have had sex with other men, there’s no reason to stigmatize that group, Parajón explains. And anyone who has been in contact with someone who has monkeypox is considered “at-risk.”
Given the risks, the state is ramping up vaccination efforts. Parajón says the state currently has 956 doses of monkeypox vaccine. But, she adds that the state is expecting 2,600 more doses to arrive before October. And the goal is to get vulnerable New Mexicans vaccinated.
“Our goal is to try to get as many people vaccinated in high risk groups to help contain the monkeypox virus,” Parajón says. “And if you’re at risk for monkeypox, and you’re interested in a vaccine, you can call our call center at 1-855-600-3453.”
“High risk” generally means being in contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox. But the DOH’s call center will also assess your risk level if you call.
In some states, there’s been a shortage of available vaccines. DOH officials say there isn’t yet a shortage in New Mexico. And they have a strategy for stretching existing doses as far as they can go.
Normally, the vaccine requires two doses. But in an effort to vaccinate as many people as possible, Parajón says the second dose can be delayed. That could allow more people to at least receive one dose while waiting for additional shipments of vaccines. So far, New Mexico has given out roughly 250 vaccines for monkeypox.
“We’re doing first doses first, to try to get as many people as possible,” Parajón says. “The second dose can be delayed to allow for more people to be vaccinated.”
DOH says they’ve also been focusing on getting information to at-risk communities. Ultimately, their goal is to keep the number of infections down.
While New Mexico has now reached 10 cases, the states neighbors are seeing higher numbers. Colorado has more than 50 cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Arizona has more than 80, and Texas has over 500 cases, according to the CDC.