Breanna Reeves |
President Joe Biden declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency as cases continue to spread throughout the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra made the announcement during a briefing on August 4, just two weeks after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.
“Ending the monkeypox outbreak is a critical priority for the Biden-Harris Administration. We are taking our response to the next level by declaring a public health emergency,” said Becerra in a statement. “With today’s declaration we can further strengthen and accelerate our response.”
Days before making this declaration, President Biden established a National Monkeypox Response Team and appointed Robert Fenton, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as the White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis as the White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.
The administration’s consecutive decisions come as reports of the administration’s delayed response to address the outbreak surface, according to the New York Times who published articles about the administration failing to make quick decisions with regard to collecting and administering vaccines.
In response to the ongoing monkeypox outbreak, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in order to increase the state’s vaccination efforts on August 1. California has seen an increase in cases over the last few months, now reporting over one thousand cases in the state.
“California is working urgently across all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and community partnerships strengthened during the pandemic to ensure that those most at risk are our focus for vaccines, treatment and outreach,” said Newsom.
According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), more than 25,000 vaccine doses have been distributed to local public health departments and mobile clinics, with plans to allocate additional doses over the next few weeks. Doses are allocated to local health departments based on different factors such as the number of reported monkeypox cases in an area and estimate of at-risk populations.
In late July, the federal government announced that an additional 72,000 JYNNEOS vaccine doses, the only licensed manufacturer authorized to produce the monkeypox vaccine in the U.S., have been alloted to California, with an additional 48,000 doses for Los Angeles County.
The CDPH reported 1,310 probable and confirmed monkeypox cases, with the majority of cases occurring in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Approximately 73% of cases have occurred in people between the ages of 25 and 44 years of age and 98% of cases have occurred in males.
Monkeypox probable/confirmed cases rise in inland region
On July 22, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health confirmed a positive case of monkeypox, the first in the county. The case occurred in a male resident in Fontana who recently traveled out of state, according to the department.
According to the county’s Public Information Officer David Wert, the county has reported three cases and is currently restricting vaccine doses to those “most at risk, which is primarily people who have been exposed and healthcare workers who work with those who are infected or have been exposed.”
The County of Riverside is experiencing an uptick in probable/confirmed cases as the county reported a total of 42 cases, with a majority of cases occurring in the eastern side of the county, including the Coachella Valley, as of August 4.
Dr. Jennifer Chevinsky, Deputy Public Health Officer at Riverside University Health System – Public Health, explained that the county has received roughly 3,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, with 75% of the supply issued to partner health clinics such as Borrego Health, Eisenhower Health and most recently, Kaiser Permanente. The remaining 25% of doses is being utilized by the public health department for people who have been exposed to monkeypox through a confirmed case.
The county has a limited supply of doses and has been focusing on getting those in need at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine series, similar to the COVID-19 vaccine, as recommended by CDPH. The JYNNEOS vaccine doses are administered 28 days apart, with the second dose able to be given up to seven days after the minimum interval of 28 days.
“And so what we’re doing is we’re prioritizing getting people at least one dose and in some instances, if somebody’s had much more elevated risk like if they have an immunocompromised condition, then we might also be able to give them the second dose,” Dr. Chevinsky stated.
Who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine
The county has outlined who is eligible for monkeypox vaccines across a few categories:
- People who have been identified as coming into contact with a known case of monkeypox.
“So, somebody that has had close contact or intimate contact with a monkeypox case — that is also called post-exposure prophylaxis,” Dr. Chevinsky explained.
- Laboratory workers who directly process monkeypox laboratory specimens or healthcare professionals who work in sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic environments and who are directly and routinely performing monkeypox testing.
“So, that one would be considered a pre-exposure prophylaxis. These are people that we know are getting in contact with the specimens,” Dr. Chevinsky said. “And it’s to provide protection for them to not get monkeypox.”
- People who had a bacterial sexual transmitted infection like syphilis or gonorrhea in the past three months, among people who identify as gay, bisexual, cisgender men who have sex with men, or non binary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men or transgender persons who have sex with men.
Partnering clinics in the region have been reaching out to their patients who may identify with these descriptions in order to provide monkeypox vaccines. The county is also examining processes for referrals for patients who may be unable to be vaccinated in a clinic.
- People who engage in “transactional sex or survival sex, so sex in exchange for shelter, food or other goods and needs,” Dr. Chevinsky said. Also, people who also do sex work or who work at sex clubs.
Anyone can get Monkeypox
In his statement declaring a state of emergency, Newsom addressed the importance of not stigmatizing members of the LGBTQ+ community as transmission of the virus has largely been found among people who identify as gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and those with multiple or anonymous sexual partners. Any person, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, can get monkeypox.
“We’ll continue to work with the federal government to secure more vaccines, raise awareness about reducing risk and stand with the LGBTQ+ community fighting stigmatization,” Newsom stated.
Monkeypox is spread through close or intimate contact, including direct contact with monkeypox rashes or scabs and touching fabrics used by someone with monkeypox. Dr. Chevinsky recommends that the public stay vigilant by being mindful of their own bodies and any partners they have intimate contact with and be aware of any rashes that may appear.
Residents can learn more about monkeypox by visiting the public health department’s page. For residents of San Bernardino County, anyone who believes they should be vaccinated can complete and submit the County’s Monkeypox Vaccine Interest Form.