SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – In one of her first public statements on the monkeypox outbreak, San Francisco Mayor London Breed wrote that she shares the frustration of the LGBTQ community with what she described as the “very limited” number of vaccines that the city has received from state and federal partners.

In a letter to United States Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra dated Tuesday, Breed wrote that “this is a critical point in the spread of this virus, and we need to take more urgent action in cities like San Francisco where there are large communities at greater risk.”

As KRON4 reported last week, an LGBTQ group asked Breed “where are you” and tagged her in a tweet stating “the silence from our allies isn’t helping our community.” Breed’s office did not respond to multiple follow-up inquiries about whether or when she’d make a statement on the city running out of monkeypox vaccines. (Her Twitter account at the time did include retweets from the health department regarding the outbreak.)

But as cases climb in San Francisco, with 141 total reported as of Tuesday, and with community leaders protesting the Biden administration’s response thus far to the outbreak, Breed wrote that its not too late for San Francisco to “be a model for the rest of the country,” as it has been with previous public health responses to HIV/AIDS and COVID-19.

“As we have shown in the past, when we are given resources, San Francisco knows what to do,” Breed stated.

Breed noted that San Francisco has numbers of monkeypox “higher than most states in the country.” Her letter states that as the shipment of 4,163 vaccine doses received this week will most likely be used within days, just as 95% of the first 3,580 doses received were used as of Monday.

Breed stated that fighting the outbreak in San Francisco would have an outsize impact: the city has long been a mecca for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Data released by the health department Tuesday shows 88.4% of San Franciscans with monkeypox identify as gay, with an additional 1.2% who identify as bisexual, 9.3% whose sexual orientation is not accounted, and 1.2% who identify as heterosexual or straight. Further, 97.7% are cisgender men and 2.3% are transgender men. There were no reported cases among women or minors.

“While the monkeypox virus impacts all people, we are seeing the spread in our LGBTQ community at much higher rates, which is of great concern for us,” Breed stated. “In San Francisco, we have a significant LGBTQ population and we have been a leader for LGBTQ rights, in our public health HIV/AIDS response, and during the COVID pandemic.”

HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

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