Seattle residents driving to Canada for vaccine as local monkeypox cases are doubling weekly

KING COUNTY, Wash. — Monkeypox cases in King County are roughly doubling every week, according to Public Health — Seattle & King County. There are currently 139 cases, compared to 83 cases on Wednesday of last week.

There is a major demand for the vaccine but, so far, not nearly enough to go around. The shortage is pushing some people to drive to Canada to get the monkeypox vaccine rather than wait.

“It just brought me a lot of fear and anxiety, honestly,” said Justin Moore, a Seattle resident. He said as the virus started to take off, it was difficult to sort through misinformation. “Watching friends across the country get it definitely amplified my fear,” he said.

King County expects it will “likely need vaccines for closer to 40,000 people in the near term,” or 80,000 doses of the two-shot vaccine. As of July 27, the date of the last received shipment, Public Health has received a total of 4,720 doses.

Moore said he heard about others in the LGBTQ community getting access to the vaccine in Vancouver, British Columbia, and decided that was the next necessary step for him.

“I went with my partner and three friends, and it was such an easy process,” Moore said. “They were very willing to accommodate anybody regardless of citizenship,” he said.

Jackson Hern, another Seattle resident, took a similar path when talking about it with friends at a trivia night.

“We all scheduled a clinic for appointments right then and there. We all went to Vancouver and back — day trip,” Hern said. “It’s huge. Having the vaccine and that protection gives me confidence in the activities that I do, knowing I’m protecting myself and stopping the spread with me,” he said.

The ongoing spread plus vaccine shortage has local doctors renewing warnings on how to keep yourself safe.

Dr. Stephaun Wallace is with Fred Hutch. Some of his work involves LGBTQ health, HIV vaccine trials, and COVID-19 vaccine trials.

“If I could have a word with folks, I’d simply say to not assume because you’re not a gay person or MSM (men having sex with men) or part of the LGBTQ community, that this can’t impact you,” Wallace said.

Monkeypox is spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact and can be sexually transmitted. Symptoms often include a rash that develops into painful sores.

But it can also be spread through contact with objects, fabrics, and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.

Dr. Wallace recommends to consider avoiding large gatherings, “particularly in spaces where people are not wearing many clothes.”

“If you do decide to go, just be mindful ... this is happening. Also, know that you may want to wear long clothing; you may want to ensure your skin is covered,” Wallace said. “There is a concern because as the pustules are developing, they might rupture onto clothing or get onto other things that are high touch points in communities or social spaces.”

How long can monkeypox survive on surfaces? Experts don’t know for sure, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites a study where investigators found live virus 15 days after a patient’s home was left unoccupied. The website also notes the virus likely survives longer on porous surfaces like clothing compared to hard surfaces like glass. The CDC notes disinfectants do kill the virus — just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how long the liquid needs to sit to kill viruses before wiping it away.

The Washington State Department of Health will hold a media briefing on Thursday at 10 a.m. and share more information on when an additional vaccine supply will be arriving in Washington.