SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The San Francisco Department of Public Health says it’s been begging for more monkeypox vaccines — but without response from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On the steps of City Hall, the department’s director along with Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro neighborhood, expressed their disgust with a lack of federal response.

The federal government’s plan is to distribute 800,000 vaccines by the end of summer, and two million by the end of next year; but those numbers don’t fly for those waiting to do their part in stopping the spread.

Mandelman stated via Twitter that the administration’s goal of vaccinating two million of the estimated 5.9 million Americans who are gay and bisexual men and trans people by the end of 2023 is “abysmal.”

“This should be a preventable public health crisis – unlike COVID-19, we did not have to wait for new vaccines to be developed, and unlike COVID-19, monkeypox does not seem to spread effectively through respiratory droplets,” Mandelman stated. “Yet here we are, with cases rising and urgent action by federal public health institutions absent. Local officials, providers, and activists are left to beg for an adequate response – the response monkeypox would have received if it didn’t primarily affect queer people.”

Eager to get a monkeypox vaccine, Jake Lahr waited in a long line at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Monday afternoon. He was eventually told that all shots were spoken for, before making it inside.

“They cut the line in front of us and said you guys have to go home,” Lahr said. “The folks in front of us who did get to stay in the line I think waited almost two-and-a-half hours.”

He returned Tuesday to wait two hours just to schedule an appointment for later in the afternoon.

“We are trying to do the right thing,” Lahr said. “Get vaccinated, protect themselves and the community and I think it’s just been really frustrating response.”

Dr. Grant Colfax, the director of DPH, said his requests to the federal government for more shots have gone unanswered.

“We are literally begging our federal partners to provide more vaccine so we can get it into the arms of people who need it,” Colfax said.

Colfax has requested enough supply to vaccinate at least 35,000 people who are most at risk.

Mandelman introduced a resolution Tuesday calling on the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to purchase more and distribute more shots.

“Here we are with cases rises, vaccines sparse and urgent action by our federal government health institutions absent,” Mandelman said.

Mandelman’s counterpart on the board, District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who represents south of Market on the board, is also gay, and lives with HIV. In a statement Tuesday he recalled past slow responses to public health crises.

“Our queer, BIPOC, and HIV positive residents know all too well the impacts of misguided, lax, or slow-moving public health responses,” Dorsey stated. “Coming out of COVID, we have all the tools we need to successfully provide a swift and targeted response to reduce the spread of the monkeypox virus. The CDC must expand access to our high-risk and vulnerable populations now, and the Health and Human Services Department must do all it can to speed up vaccine distribution.”

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has received 290 doses of the Jynneos vaccine — but that’s not nearly enough according to CEO Tyler Termeer.

“Our Monkeypox hotline received one to two phone calls per minute,” Termeer said.

Lahr wondered how the response is going in other parts of the U.S.

“If it’s impossible to get a vaccine here, what’s it like in Arkansas, what’s it like in Mississippi. It just baffles me,” Lahr said.

Since June, DPH says its received around 2,888 monkeypox vaccines and has distributed more than 95% of those to community clinics and sites in the city.

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What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Symptoms of monkeypox include onset of flu-like symptoms and distinctive rashes or sores that could look like pimples or blisters.

While these red, flat spots which become bumps can be anywhere on the body, they are most likely in the genital or rectal areas, or at the fingers, mouth or eyes. The spots become bumps, which break and crust over into a scab. They may be itchy, but not necessarily.

Further, some people only get one or some of these symptoms; it is possible to have a fever but never a rash, or have these symptoms sequentially and not concurrently.

What is the monkeypox vaccine?

Getting a vaccine within 14 days of exposure can prevent or mitigate disease risk, as the incubation period can be weeks. Healthcare providers should test for other infections with similar symptoms, such as syphilis. Tests for monkeypox are confirmed at specialized labs. The monkeypox virus is in the orthopoxvirus family alongside smallpox, for which routine vaccination in the United States ended in 1972 after the disease was declared eradicated here. The smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective against monkeypox, though its effectiveness reduces over time.

Side-effects of the Jynneos vaccine could include redness, pain or swelling at the injection site, muscle pain, headache, fatigue and nausea.

Who can get a monkeypox infection?

While “many of the cases are occurring within networks of gay, bisexual, trans people, and men who have sex with men,” San Francisco Department of Public Health spokesperson Noel Sanchez stated, anyone can become infected with the monkeypox virus.

“SFDPH takes monkeypox seriously,” Sanchez stated. “While most cases resolve on their own without pills or treatment, monkeypox can be serious. We are trying to contain outbreaks and reduce transmission to avoid the virus spreading to more people and potentially becoming endemic. To that end, we are doing education and outreach to communities most at risk; tracking monkeypox cases; distributing and administering vaccines as a preventative measure to people at high risk because of an exposure; and supporting testing and clinical guidance to providers, among other efforts.”

Sanchez advises people to:

  • cover exposed skin in crowds
  • avoid sharing begging and clothing
  • talk with close physical and sexual contacts about health, rashes and shores
  • be aware of symptoms