Georgia opens new centralized monkeypox vaccine scheduling portal

A person receives the monkeypox vaccine during a mass vaccination clinic at the DeKalb County Board of Health North DeKalb Health Center in Chamblee on Friday, August 5, 2022. (Dean Hesse/Decaturish)

The Georgia Department of Public Health has launched a new, centralized online-scheduling tool and phone helpline to assist people in locating and making appointments for a monkeypox vaccine.

The one-stop site opens amid a shortage of monkeypox vaccine in Georgia and rising demand for the treatment as cases of the virus rise rapidly in the state and nationwide.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the U.S. currently has at least 11,890 total confirmed monkeypox cases. Georgia has at least 951 confirmed cases as of Monday, the fifth-highest number of cases in the nation behind New York, California, Florida and Texas.

The virus can affect anyone, but so far nearly all cases in the current outbreak are confirmed among men who have sex with men. And Black men are particularly hard hit by the outbreak in Georgia. 

For weeks, LGBTQ and health advocates have called for the state to do more to respond to the vaccine shortage.

Georgia has not declared monkeypox a state emergency.

The new DPH vaccine scheduling tool is available at Vaccine scheduling is also available by phone through the site’s monkeypox helpline at (888) 457-0186.

Users are required to answer a few screening questions that officials say will help DPH prioritize vaccine appointments for individuals at the highest risk from exposure to monkeypox.

DPH officials say the website is designed to prevent people from having to search individual health department sites for an available appointment. It’s expected to be updated as Georgia’s allocation of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine from the federal government changes.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced another 442,000 doses of the vaccine will be available for states to order on an accelerated timeline after the Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the treatment.

The Biden administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency on Aug. 4.

Monkeypox spreads mainly through close skin-to-skin contact with people who have been infected, according to the CDC. It may also spread through infected bedding and other fabric.

Read more about how to protect yourself from monkeypox and what to do if you are infected at the CDC.

Patrick Saunders contributed to this report.

Monkeypox 101

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgia Department of Public Health

What are the symptoms? A rash on or near the genitals, anus, hands, feet, chest, face or mouth; fever; chills; swollen lymph nodes; exhaustion; muscle aches and backache; headache; and/or respiratory symptoms.

How long do symptoms last? Symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure and typically last two to four weeks.

How does it spread? Through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact including direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs or bodily fluids from a person with monkeypox; touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding or towels) and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox. Contact with respiratory secretions.

Is it a sexually transmitted infection? Monkeypox is not considered an STI, but sex is one of the ways that it can be spread.

Does it only affect certain people based on sexual orientation or race? No. Anyone can get monkeypox.

How can it be prevented? Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox. Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom. 

Where can I get a vaccine? There is a shortage of vaccines locally and nationwide, but check with your local county health department for availability. You do not have to be a resident of the county to get a vaccine there, but priority is currently being given to those most impacted by the outbreak so far. Community-based organizations such as Positive Impact Health Centers, A Vision 4 Hope and AID Atlanta are also good resources. 

What should I do if I think I have monkeypox? Stay home and call your medical provider or local health department for additional guidance. Testing for monkeypox can only be done if a person has a rash, bumps or sores. If you test positive, you should quarantine until the rash has fully healed, any scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take up to two to four weeks.