SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has long been on the forefront of advocating for the needs of the city and state’s LGBTQ community. Lately, he’s been sounding the alarm about the monkeypox outbreak.
Speaking with KRON4’s Ella Sogomonian on July 30, Wiener said that he thinks California is “taking this extremely seriously in terms of doing everything in our power to expand access to vaccination. … We can always do more, we can do more of course, but I do believe California is treating this with the sense of urgency it deserves.”
“A state of emergency, in addition to just projecting that this is very serious, will streamline and hasten the process of entering into contracts, hiring people, getting vaccination spots up and running,” Wiener said. “I’m really thrilled that the mayor did this and I think we should do it at the state level as well.”
This particular monkeypox virus outbreak has been primarily affecting gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, according to San Francisco Department of Public Health statistics. He said there is increasing awareness in the community and desire for the vaccine, but that is leading to federally-provided vaccine supplies running out quickly. Wiener stated last week that the federal government “failed to act quickly to acquire the vaccine supplies needed to prevent an outbreak” and that “given that gay and bi men and trans people are the most impacted, it’s sadly becoming clear that we are being left behind once again.”
“They can’t come fast enough,” Wiener told KRON4. “The more this spread, particularly if it starts spreading into straight communities, we’re going to see a dramatically increased demand for vaccines, even beyond what we’re seeing today. … The faster we can move to get vaccines into arms, the better.”
When asked about the likelihood that the ACAM2000 smallpox vaccine will be used to combat the outbreak — some 100 million of which are in the Strategic National Stockpile, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Wiener said the fact that health officials want people to take the Jynneos vaccine because it doesn’t have as significant side effects.
Unfortunately, Wiener said, that vaccine is only made by one manufacturer in Denmark. The senator said other companies need to be allowed to produce it.
“With respect to the older smallpox vaccine, the ACAM vaccine, that smallpox vaccine unlike the new one is a live virus vaccine which is why immunocompromised people with eczema can’t take it,” he said. “That is an option … The challenge is that its very complicated to administer it … And because it’s a live virus, it can have significant side effects.”
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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. CDC statistics show the most commonly-reported symptoms are rash (99%), malaise (70%) and fever (64%).
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?
CDC and SF DPH statistics show the current outbreak is primarily affecting men who have sex with men; though at least 13 U.S. cases as of July 25 have been diagnosed in people who were assigned female sex at birth. 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, SF DPH spokesperson Noel Sanchez cautions that anyone could 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