SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Two San Francisco lawmakers are blasting the federal government for its “public health failure” on controlling the monkeypox outbreak in spite of effective vaccinations, and stated “we have no time to spare.”
State Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Matt Haney (both D-San Francisco) issued a joint statement Friday morning warning that the outbreak could become endemic among men who have sex with men unless more vaccine doses are distributed as soon as possible.
“While the virus can infect anyone, it is particularly impacting gay and bisexual men,” the pair stated. “We have very little time to contain this outbreak and prevent it from getting out of control and potentially becoming endemic.”
Before ascending to the California State Senate, Wiener represented the Castro neighborhood on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Haney represented the south of Market neighborhood on the board until earlier this year when he won election to the California State Assembly. Both neighborhoods are historic homes to the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Wiener and Haney stated that while “the good news is that we have an effective vaccine that prevents monkeypox,” the federal government has so far failed at controlling the outbreak, which just yesterday saw the biggest spike in new cases reported in a single day: 95, making for a total of 700 confirmed cases nationwide.
“The bad news is that the federal government has once again had a public health failure, this time by failing to order enough vaccine doses to prepare for this foreseeable outbreak,” the pair stated. “The federal government needs to dramatically increase the supply of the vaccine and distribute it to impacted local communities as quickly as possible. We have no time to spare.”
The Biden administration announced late last month that it was ordering some 1.6 million doses to be deployed by the end of 2022. The Jynneos vaccine being used, which was initially created to immunize against monkeypox’ viral cousin smallpox, is a two-dose vaccine, and San Francisco health officials are being conservative with distribution, limiting jabs to close contacts of people with confirmed or suspected monkeypox, people who had “close, physical contact with others” at an event with a reported monkeypox case, laboratory workers who handle viral samples, and clinicians with high-risk occupational exposure.
Agencies in the East Bay have been hosting a pop-up clinic at Steamworks Baths, a gay bathhouse, to try to reach those at the greatest risk of infection.
As KRON4 reported yesterday, health officials such as San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Tyler TerMeer are sounding the alarm that the federal government has not provided enough vaccines to “beat the curve of new infections.”
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Wiener and Haney echoed TerMeer’s complaint.
“It’s completely unacceptable that the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and other community clinics are receiving so few doses,” they stated. “We need a sufficient quantity of vaccines so that everyone who is at risk has access.”
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