SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – LGBTQ and health groups have planned a second demonstration outside the San Francisco office of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, demanding the Biden administration cut red tape around monkeypox treatments and give large cities the amount of vaccines they need.
The protest is planned for 4:30 p.m. August 8 at 90 7th Street; it follows a similar protest July 18.
Gary McCoy, the co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club, told KRON4 that the protest would be joined by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, the HIV caucus of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, and “large numbers of activists and members of the LGBTQ community and folks in the medical field and people who’ve had monkeypox.”
The protest comes after a scathing report in the New York Times late last week alleged that there will be Jynneos shortages for the next few months because of a “hands-off” approach to the crisis from federal officials; the Biden administration declared a federal state of emergency around the outbreak Thursday, following San Francisco and several states.
“We’re demanding they cut the red tape,” McCoy said. “We’re pretty angry the formulary for vaccine distribution was changed. We’re angry testing takes five days or longer. We’re angry people can’t get TPOXX [treatments] in a timely manner. We’re demanding the federal government use emergency use authorization for monkeypox treatment access.”
McCoy said that though it has not been confirmed, sources in the public health community have said that the formulary was changed so that while heretofore vaccines were distributed 75% based on existing cases and 25% based on risk factors, this was changed so that vaccines will now be distributed 75% based on risk factors and 25% based on existing cases.
This formula will be advantageous to “more rural areas and areas not impacted yet,” McCoy said, which will be “weighted heavier than areas like San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles that have high case loads.”
McCoy said that its incumbent upon departments of health and other sources of information to be accurate in reporting about monkeypox, as misinformation can further stigma against communities being hit hard by the virus.
“It comes down to not having enough education,” McCoy said. “We need more education about what is a risk factor and how its transmitted and we need to be very clear. A lot of health departments are not being very clear.”
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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. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show the most commonly-reported symptoms are rash (99%), malaise (70%) and fever (64%).
The CDC stated August 6 that the most common places where rashes have been reported in this outbreak are genitals (46% of cases), arms (40%), face (38%) and legs (37%).
While the red, flat spots which become bumps can be anywhere on the body, they are most likely in the current outbreak to affect the genital or rectal areas, or 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?
The monkeypox virus is in the orthopoxvirus family alongside smallpox, for which routine vaccination in the U.S. ended in 1972 after the disease was declared eradicated here. Jynneos, a vaccine approved for both smallpox and monkeypox, is at least 85% effective against monkeypox, though its effectiveness reduces over time.
Getting the 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.
Side-effects of the vaccine could include redness, pain or swelling at the injection site, muscle pain, headache, fatigue and nausea.
Who can get a monkeypox infection?
According to CDC statistics released August 6, 99% of cases were in men, and 94% of cases were in men who reported having sex with men. Among those cases, the majority had reported multiple sexual partners in the prior three weeks. A total of ten U.S. cases have been reported in women, according to the CDC, and as of August 3 two pediatric cases have been confirmed. The virus is spread through close skin-on-skin contact and an adviser on sexually transmitted infections with the World Health Organization stated experts have not determined whether it is a sexually transmitted infection per se, though it is “clearly transmitted during sex.”
However, Noel Sanchez of the San Francisco Department of Public Health cautioned that anyone could become infected with the monkeypox virus, and that it doesn’t necessarily require sexual contact to contract it.
“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 bedding and clothing, talk with close physical and sexual contacts about health, rashes and sores, and be aware of symptoms.