PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Local health providers are hoping treatment for the monkeypox virus will become more easily accessible for their patients.
On Wednesday, the Allegheny County Health Department confirmed the county's 30th case of monkeypox. According to the CDC, there are 170 cases in Pennsylvania.
Registered nurse Donald Nardelli is seeing more patients at Central Outreach Wellness Center on Pittsburgh's North Shore who are looking to be assessed for the virus. He said the antiviral medication, TPOXX, has been successful in treating some patients.
"However, there is a limited supply of that stuff. So, we need to maintain which patients are a priority, and patients that have severe symptoms, maybe lesions around their eyes or genitalia are more prone to complications," Nardelli said.
Nardelli said when the center starts to run low, it can take several days to get the drug stockpiled. The FDA approved the drug for smallpox.
Central Outreach has the medication, which it uses for severe cases in-house. Before the center had it in a stockpile. Nardelli said it recently took six days to get the medicine for a patient.
'We're stable with what we have, but there's going to come a point some of the patients we would normally start on right away might have to wait two or three days until we can get a full stockpile," said Nardelli.
In about the last three to four weeks, Nardelli has assessed 52 patients and swab tested 45, 23 tests were positive, and 12 tests are pending. The vaccine is available at all the Central Outreach locations.
"I don't know what today will bring. Yesterday I assessed 11 patients, and we got four of them on meds yesterday. I could assess 20 today and 19 want to get on meds and if I don't have it on stockpile, then I'm limited," he said.
Nardelli said it's difficult to get the vaccine as well, as people must meet specific close contact criteria and availability is limited.
The Allegheny County Health Department said it is collaborating with state and federal partners and developing a plan to expand eligibility and clinic sites.
"I would love to have 10 times as much the vaccine as we have. More vaccine means more vaccinated people so we can move up in categories to vaccinate people who didn't have exposure but high-risk situations. That's a way for us to be preventive against this outbreak," Nardelli said.
The Allegheny County Health Department has received 2,800 doses of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine. The JYNNEOS vaccine is offered by ACHD's community partners (Central Outreach Wellness Center, Allies for Health + Wellbeing, Metro Community Health Center, and AHN Positive Health Clinic) and the ACHD's Immunization Clinic (425 First Avenue, Fourth Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219).
If an individual is eligible, the ACHD said to contact one of the vaccine providers or the ACHD's Immunization Clinic at 412-578-8062.
According to ACHD public health nurse supervisor Renee Miller:
"Originally, the CDC and PA DOH recommended the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine be a two dose series. However, per guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, starting today, patients should only be scheduled for second doses of the monkeypox vaccine if they have a condition that may increase their risk for severe disease if infected with monkeypox virus (ex. HIV or another condition that weakens their immune system) or who have a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema. At the ACHD Immunization Clinic, we are not canceling any patients who are already scheduled for second doses. However, we are advising patients moving forward that they will be eligible for a second dose in the future, but that date is not yet known and depends on vaccine quantities The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the additional release of more than 700,000 more doses of the monkeypox vaccine."