RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County Public Health has administered 1,035 doses of the monkeypox vaccine to date. On Monday, they made the transition to a new method of administering the vaccine—an intradermal injection.

The move comes as demand outpaces supply. The federal government made 1.8 million doses available to order Monday for jurisdictions that adopt the intradermal method of injection and have used 90 percent of their supply. 

What is intradermal injection?

The common way vaccines are given is intramuscularly or into the layer of muscle below the skin and fat. A lesser common method is intradermal, that delivers the vaccine to the topmost layer of the skin called the dermis.

This form of injection is also used for allergy and tuberculosis testing. These are much shallower in nature and most patients report only feeling a slight pinch, according to a release from Wake County.

Why is Wake County transitioning to this method?

Other than being perhaps more pleasant than a deeper injection, intradermal has a major upside — creating more supply. Wake County said administering the vaccine this way will increase the supply of the vaccine, as it requires only one-fifth of the amount used previously.

“This method of administering the monkeypox vaccine is going to be able to significantly expand the vaccines available, meaning we can offer a lot more protection even faster to our residents who need it,” Sig Hutchinson said, the chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “We’re excited that our supply of doses will now stretch even further.”

Additionally, the injection method is equally effective as the intramuscular, which is how the vaccine has been administered so far. Officials said anyone who has received a first shot intramuscularly can get the second shot intradermally.

The FDA also has said side effects of the monkeypox vaccine were similar in people who received both forms of injection and none of the reported side effects were severe. Earlier this month, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization allowing the intradermal injection of the vaccine. 

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease expert at UNC Health, said a 2015 study showed this method of administering can be effective in increasing antibody levels. 

“It signals that this could work. But, let’s be clear. The reason we’re doing this is because we don’t have enough vaccine to vaccinate people. So, it’s some sort of rationing strategy,” he said.  

He added that using this technique comes with its own set of challenges.

It requires particular needles and syringes, that he said are in short supply, and additional training for those administering the vaccine.  

“A lot of the younger nurses and medical assistants and physicians don’t know how to do this. And, you want to get it under the skin. If you don’t go deep enough, it leaks out. So, there’s a technique,” Wohl said. “You have to draw it out of a vial that wasn’t exactly made for drawing one-fifth the dose. And, there’s been reports that people really can’t get five doses out of the one vial.” 

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday there have been 250 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the state. Nearly all of those cases are among men who have sex with men, NCDHHS reported.  

Rebecca Kaufman, the preventative health director at Wake County Public Health, said utilizing the intradermal method will allow the county to get through its wait list faster and be able to use more proactive strategies to reach people who are at greatest risk. 

“We’ve been receiving vaccines either every week or every other week at this point. So, we anticipate more doses coming within the next two weeks,” she said. “We will definitely be able to open slots faster, especially knowing we have the doses behind us. So, you will see that list going a little faster.” 

Over the weekend, the federal government worked with the state to make additional doses from the Strategic National Stockpile available at the Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade as part of a pilot program to reach people in the LGBTQI+ community at large-scale events.   

When asked about the nation’s ability to contain the outbreak at this point, Dr. Wohl said, “I’m really heartened that we’re not seeing a lot more people coming in right now with skin lesions that look like monkeypox. So, I’m cautiously optimistic that this may not be a very efficiently spreading virus now.” 

How to request a vaccine appointment

Wake County Public Health has a limited supply of the vaccine and it is offered at no cost. Residents who have been exposed to someone who has had monkeypox, or who feel they are eligible to receive the vaccine can:

  • Visit wakegov.com/monkeypox and fill out the online self-attestation form; or
  • Call our monkeypox call center at 919-212-9398, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

For symptoms, testing and other information on monkeypox vaccine eligibility in Wake County, visit wakegov.com/monkeypox.