SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The San Francisco AIDS Foundation will be hosting a free, online town hall on the monkeypox outbreak Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Interested individuals can register on the foundation’s website. The town hall will be in English but a Spanish language translation will be available.

“Monkeypox is circulating in our community, and we want to make sure you have the info you need about what’s going on,” the foundation stated. “Please join us for a town hall where we’ll answer questions and facilitate discussion about how the infection is spreading in the Bay Area, testing and treatment, symptoms, unmet needs around vaccine access, and how to get involved in advocating for vaccine access for our community.”

The town hall is being co-sponsored by several of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer organizations as well as the San Francisco Department of Public Health; the monkeypox outbreak has primarily affected men who have sex with men.

San Francisco has reported 60 probable cases of monkeypox as of July 12, according to DPH statistics. There is a vaccine, though LGBTQ community leaders and public health experts have sounded the alarm that the federal government is not doing enough to get doses to affected communities.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital is offering the vaccine Monday-Friday 4 p.m.-6 p.m. to people who meet the city’s eligibility requirements, which include 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, according to DPH. “More than 600 San Franciscans have been vaccinated for monkeypox,” according to a DPH statement to KRON4 on Tuesday, which also stated that the city has received a total of 2,888 vaccine doses total.

Steamworks Baths in Berkeley is hosting a weekly pop-up clinic Wednesdays at noon for the next four Wednesdays in consultation with the Berkeley and Alameda County departments of health.

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro neighborhood on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, plans to call for a more aggressive vaccination campaign this afternoon at City Hall. Mandelman is planning to introduce a resolution to the board calling on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services to “dramatically accelerate the purchase and distribution” of vaccines.

“The abysmal federal response to Monkeypox is insulting and dangerous to gay and bisexual men and trans people across the country,” Mandelman stated Tuesday. “800,000 doses by the end of the summer is an entirely unacceptable goal, especially after demonstrating our capacity to vaccinate millions of people a month for COVID-19. … Preventing Monkeypox from becoming another endemic sexually transmitted infection should be a top public health priority. The insufficient response thus far is reflective of an institutional callousness to issues that disproportionately affect gay and bisexual men and trans people. I will continue to call our federal government out for its failure until the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Health and Human Services confront this virus with the urgency it demands.”

Mandelman’s counterpart on the board, District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who represents south of Market on the board, is also gay, and lives with HIV. In a statement Tuesday he recalled past slow responses to public health crises.

“Our queer, BIPOC, and HIV positive residents know all too well the impacts of misguided, lax, or slow-moving public health responses,” Dorsey stated. “Coming out of COVID, we have all the tools we need to successfully provide a swift and targeted response to reduce the spread of the monkeypox virus. The CDC must expand access to our high-risk and vulnerable populations now, and the Health and Human Services Department must do all it can to speed up vaccine distribution.”

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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.

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