LA County Expands Access to Monkeypox Vaccine

Amid mounting criticism from LGBTQ activists and others, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has said it will expand eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine to certain patients with diseases recent sexually transmitted infections and high-risk individuals in the Central Men’s Prison.

Still, eligibility will remain limited to those most at risk, and officials point to a severe shortage of Jynneos vaccines that likely won’t be resolved for months.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “is really committed to letting us know that more — a lot more — is coming,” said Andrea Kim, director of vaccine-preventable disease control for the county of THE. “By the end of the year, it is expected that we will have millions of available doses of Jynneos.”

But some members of the LGBTQ community worry that such a timeline may be too late to prevent the spread, which could make monkeypox a permanent threat in the United States. Although still far from widespread and nowhere near as contagious as the coronavirus, monkeypox has evolved dramatically. rising cases, with about a 60% increase week-over-week in California and Los Angeles County. In San Francisco, cases have doubled.

Two San Francisco state lawmakers, both Democrats, have criticized federal officials for not having enough vaccine doses.

“Monkey pox is a growing public health problem in our community. Although the virus can infect anyone, it particularly affects gay and bisexual men,” Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Matt Haney said in a joint statement. “We have very little time to contain this outbreak and prevent it from spiraling out of control and becoming potentially endemic.

“The federal government has once again experienced a public health failure, this time by failing to order enough vaccine doses to prepare for this foreseeable outbreak,” Wiener and Haney wrote. “The federal government must dramatically increase the vaccine supply and get it to affected local communities as quickly as possible. We do not have time to lose.

Giving the Jynneos vaccine early can help prevent monkeypox even after a person has been exposed to the virus.

The vaccine is given in two doses, 28 days apart, and a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose. This means that it takes about six weeks after the first dose to get the best protection. Even then, completing a series of two-dose vaccinations confers only 85% protection, said Dr. Dawn Terashita, associate director of the LA County Acute Communicable Disease Control Program.

The vaccine “shouldn’t be seen as some kind of 100% protective measure,” Terashita said. “Everyone should always take precautions to prevent disease transmission.”

LGBTQ organizations and county officials are stepping up efforts to spread the word about how to avoid infection.

“For best prevention, avoid close physical contact — sexual and non-sexual — with people who have symptoms of illness, sores, or rashes,” the Los Angeles LGBT Center says in a fact sheet. “Tell your sexual partner about any recent illnesses, potential exposures, and any new sores or rashes.”

A virtual town hall to discuss monkeypox will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Authorities are urging people at high risk of exposure to self-check for signs of infection – such as rashes, bumps, blisters and pus-filled sores – and, if found, get themselves isolate and seek medical attention. Other symptoms include fever and headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes.

Authorities are also urging people to check sexual partners for signs of monkeypox rash or bump, which sometimes first appear in the genital area or in or around the anus.

“In many cases with the current outbreak, people develop a rash, with or without other symptoms, and this rash is often concentrated in the genital area,” Terashita said.

If you see rashes or a bump, “try to isolate yourself as much as possible to avoid spreading the disease to others. Be sure to watch yourself for signs of early illness – perhaps fever, fatigue, or any sort of rash. And as soon as you have symptoms, self-isolate permanently,” Terashita said.

“If a person develops a rash, we want them to self-isolate,” confirmed Dr. Leo Moore, medical director of clinical services for the LA County Department of Public Health. “We also encourage them to go to a sexual health clinic or go to their primary care provider and get tested for monkeypox.”

Monkeypox rashes can be difficult to distinguish from other more common infections, such as syphilis.

Monkeypox infections can be painful, resulting in symptoms so severe that patients should be prescribed painkillers. The illness can last two to four weeks and lead to a rash that spreads throughout the body.

Monkeypox is spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact with a person who has a rash and pus-filled sores. It can also be transmitted through contact with virus-filled materials, such as bedding and towels, and potentially through close contact with respiratory droplets coming out of an infected person’s mouth, nose, and eyes.

No one in LA County has been hospitalized or died of monkeypox, and the strain involved – West African – is rarely fatal. Of the 7,500 cases worldwide, there have been three deaths; none have occurred in the United States, according to Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the county public health department.

Still, some people can suffer from significant complications, such as those with weakened immune systems and those with a history of eczema. Rare complications can include eye damage that endangers vision.

Expanded monkeypox vaccine eligibility in LA County will cover gay and bisexual men and transgender women who have been diagnosed with rectal gonorrhea or early syphilis – both of which can increase the risk of transmission of the virus. monkeypox – within the last three months and are patients of a sexual health clinic. Also newly eligible will be a limited number of high-risk individuals identified by clinical staff at the Central Men’s Prison.

Already eligible for the vaccine in LA County are people with known exposure to a confirmed case of monkeypox and people who attended an event where there was a high risk of exposure to a confirmed case.

All people eligible for the vaccine should be invited to get vaccinated; the Department of Public Health or clinics will contact eligible patients directly, Kim said. Starting next week, she said, the county will begin distributing vaccine doses to community sexual health clinics to administer.

“With the extremely limited supply of Jynneos vaccines in the United States, residents who have not been contacted by [the L.A. County Department of] Public health or clinic partners cannot be vaccinated at this time,” the agency said in a statement. “Public Health will expand eligibility as additional doses become available; the federal government plans to distribute additional doses later this month.

Dr. Ward Carpenter, director of health services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said the county’s plan to target those already receiving STD treatment is the right approach, given how the monkeypox virus acts like an STD.

“The obvious goal here is to get those at risk vaccinated,” Carpenter said. “Then we really start to draw a better level of community protection, and that’s what’s going to limit the outbreak.”

Carpenter echoed public health recommendations to seek medical attention and testing for any symptoms or possible development on the skin. Even people with rashes or welts that don’t look like typical monkeypox lesions have recently come back positive for the virus, Carpenter said.

“If you’ve got anything on your skin, come in and be seen,” Carpenter said.

Only about 1,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine have been administered in LA County. 6,000 additional doses have recently arrived.

About 700 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the United States and 141 in California. Los Angeles County reported 54 cases Friday morning, up from 47 the day before; San Francisco reported 40 cases Tuesday, up from 16 a week earlier.

Los Angeles Times

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