NYC health officials point to decline in monkeypox cases, hope it's a turning point

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan says the city has "begun" to see cases fall and transmission "slow"-- two bits of good news that he says can be attributed to peoples' modified behavior and to the city's efforts to vaccinate more than 63,000 residents with first doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine.

When asked if case numbers declining may be due to a lack of testing, Vasan said testing has in fact ramped up making the good news even better.

"We actually are seeing testing increase, testing volume increase. So that's a good sign that we're seeing declining case rates in an environment of increasing testing," Vasan said.

Vasan's comments came during remarks made at a Monkeypox oversight hearing held by the New York City Council's Committee on Health

When asked after the hearing if this might be a turning point in the city's battle against the virus, Vasan told FOX 5, "I certainly hope so, but we are going to be following the data over the next few days to see how sustainable this decline is."

As of Wednesday, the city has reported more than 2800 positive cases.

But while a decline in cases is good news, anxiety still permeates much of the at-risk community, primarily defined right now as men who have sex with men, as well as their sexual networks.

Councilmember Erik Bottcher says many people who've received their first dose "months ago" feel in the dark regarding when they'll be able to receive their second dose. (The JYNNEOS vaccine is recommended to be administered in two doses, 28 days apart.)

Vasan pointed out that the city is still operating under its first dose only strategy, so as to get more baseline protection to a larger number of people. 

But he says the FDA's recent recommendation-- and the city's implementation of-- the "intradermal" method of administering doses, which utilizes only one-fifth of the previous dose, will help them provide information regarding second doses "within the next week," according to a Health Department release.

However, administering doses intradermally can be more complicated, and it requires a different type of training for clinicians.

"I think the switch to intradermal administration will tell us a lot about how quickly and how and when we can start doing second doses currently," Vasan said in the hearing. "The safety aspects of providing effective intradermal dosing is something that we want to make sure we're doing correctly for first doses before we start switching over to second doses."

"But I think we'll be making some announcements in the coming weeks."

Vasan also says that despite the recommendation that second doses be given 28 days after the first, there is research to suggest the second dose could be given up to a year following the first dose. 

The city will open up 12,000 additional first dose appointments on the city's vaccine portal 6PM Wednesday.