SANTA CLARA COUNTY (KRON) – Santa Clara County has expanded eligibility for receiving the monkeypox vaccine, stressing that it is working with a limited supply from the federal government.

The county’s department of public health announced it will be giving vaccines by appointment or invitation only, which is a different strategy than nearby Alameda and San Francisco counties, which have held mass vaccination drives. Over 1,000 cases have been reported in the 2022 global outbreak, which has been primarily but not exclusively been among men who have sex with men.

There have been 23 cases of monkeypox reported in Santa Clara County as of July 19. Getting vaccinated up to 14 days after exposure can prevent infection with the monkeypox virus.

People in Santa Clara County are eligible for the monkeypox vaccine if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Have had “direct physical contact” with someone confirmed to have monkeypox,
  • Attended an event or venue where a person contagious with the monkeypox virus was at the event or venue and had “direct physical contact” with others there,
  • Is a gay, bisexual or other cisgender man who has sex with men, or as a transgender man or woman who has sex with men, and meets at least one of the following criteria:
    • Has a recent history of multiple or anonymous sexual partners,
    • Participates in group sex,
    • Attends or works at sex-on-premises venues, such as bathhouses or sex clubs,
    • Is a sex worker, and/or
    • Has been diagnosed with at least one bacterial sexually transmitted infection, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis, in the past 12 months.

Dr. George Han, the deputy health officer for the health department, stated that the county needs more vaccines from the federal government, echoing concerns from elsewhere in the Bay Area and the nation at-large.

“As has been the case across the country, more vaccine is needed from the federal government supply to meet local demand as more individuals test positive and vaccine eligibility expands over time to everyone who needs it,” Han stated.

Just yesterday, advocates in San Francisco protested the federal government’s response to the outbreak, which they characterized as slow. The city almost ran out of vaccines last week, though 4,163 of a shipment of 14,774 from the federal government to the state will be sent to the City By The Bay this week. San Francisco has more than a third of the total number of cases in the state.

Santa Clara County has not responded to a request for comment as to how many vaccines it will receive of the 14,774 doses of Jynneos sent to the Golden State.

Han stated that the criteria are part of a proactive approach on the part of the county.

“This approach prioritizes vaccinating people who are at highest risk first,” Han stated.

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.

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Who can get monkeypox?

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 bedding and clothing
  • talk with close physical and sexual contacts about health, rashes and sores
  • be aware of symptoms