HOUSTON — The monkeypox virus continues to spread locally and nationwide.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports 9,492 cases in the U.S. The Texas Department of State Health Services says 701 of those are in Texas. Local health officials report 223 cases in Harris County including 195 in the city of Houston.
Now, local health departments are gearing up to administer more vaccines using a new method authorized by the FDA. It should increase the vaccine supply but for now, there are no changes to who is eligible for the shot.
That means people with HIV are still not eligible.
"I really feel unsafe," said Josh Mica.
Mica wishes he could roll up his sleeve to get the shot.
"I don't qualify," said Mica. "A lot of my friends have had to lie to get this vaccine."
Despite living with HIV, he and others with HIV and other immunocompromised conditions remain ineligible to receive the vaccine.
"They're marginalizing one community over another one, and this time they're marginalizing the HIV community," said Mica.
"We do fully recognize that people who have immunocompromised medical conditions like HIV are at increased risk for complications should they become infected," said Houston Health Authority Dr. David Persse.
But local health officials say it comes down to vaccine supply.
"Given the amount of vaccine we have, even with the expanded guidance for the vaccine, it's still not enough for all those who are potentially eligible," said Harris County Health Authority Dr. Ericka Brown.
The city and county are working to train their teams on how to administer the vaccine via 'intradermal injection' which means just under the skin. It's a smaller dose that will help increase vaccine supply.
"Once we get enough vaccine, we can broaden the criteria for people at higher risk of complications," said Persse.
In the meantime, Mica says he has no choice but to be extra careful.
"I don't go out and socialize with friends," said Mica. "We're going back to how things were with COVID."
County and city health officials say although most monkeypox cases are overwhelmingly among men who have sex with men, monkeypox is not an STD and not a virus only impacting one group of people.
"For whoever thinks this is a gay, MSM problem only, we are already seeing in the U.S. spread within households," said Persse. "The general public needs to know about this so they can protect themselves as well.
Both Houston Health and Harris County Public Health say they hope to be ready to administer the vaccine via the new method within a week's time.
They say they are still taking appointments for vaccinations to be administered via the previous method until intradermal injections are ready to go.