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Two Springfield clinics say they're booking up fast for monkeypox vaccine appointments

This electron microscopic (EM) image depicts monkeypox virus particles, obtained from a clinical sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. This is a thin section image from of a human skin sample. On the left are mature, oval-shaped virus particles, and on the right are the crescents, and spherical particles of immature virions.
Cynthia S. Goldsmith
/
CDC
This electron microscopic (EM) image depicts monkeypox virus particles, obtained from a clinical sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. This is a thin section image from of a human skin sample. On the left are mature, oval-shaped virus particles, and on the right are the crescents, and spherical particles of immature virions.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health released limited doses of the monkeypox vaccine to 11 clinics across the state, after confirming 30 new monkeypox cases, bringing the total to 79.

In western Massachusetts, only two clinics in Springfield received the vaccine. Cheryl Zoll, the CEO of Tapestry Health, one of the clinics that received the vaccine, said they're booking up fast.

"Our initial allotment is 100 doses and when we get close to the end of that, then we'll go back to DPH and request some additional doses," Zoll said.

Baystate Medical's Brightwood Health Center is the other Springfield clinic administering the vaccine.

"The fact that we've gone through nearly a quarter of it within one week suggests to me that there's certainly a need for it in the western part of the state," said Dr. Jacob Smith, an infectious disease specialist with Baystate.

Smith said monkeypox is spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact and that the people most at risk are those who have multiple sex partners within a short period of time. He said walking by, shaking hands, or even being in the same room with someone who has monkeypox are not risk factors for getting infected.

Laura Kittross, director of Berkshire Public Health Alliance, said she has not seen cases so far in Berkshire County.

"None in the 20 or so towns that the Berkshire Public Health Alliance covers, and none of the municipalities either," she said. "[We're] not concerned about having access to the vaccine as eligibility is still very limited and only for close contacts of those infected."

Kittross said if someone needs to receive the vaccine, they "will work to make sure they have access."

Micheal Leary, a spokesperson for Berkshire Health Systems, also noted that they have not seen any recorded cases of monkeypox in Berkshire County.

"[W]e are keeping a close eye on the situation and will respond accordingly if cases do develop," Leary said.

Leary said they asked the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to consider Berkshire Health Systems as a resource for distribution of the vaccine in the Berkshires, should it become necessary.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.