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Santa Clara County expands eligibility of monkeypox vaccine; supplies still limited

LGBTQ+ activists demand action asmonkeypox cases increase in the Bay Area
LGBTQ+ activists demand action as monkeypox cases increase in the Bay Area 02:50

SAN JOSE – As cases of monkeypox continue to rise in the Bay Area, health officials in Santa Clara County have expanded eligibility of the vaccine after receiving several hundred doses.

On Tuesday, the county's public health department announced that vaccines will be available to people meeting certain eligibility requirements by appointment only. Previously, access to the shots had been invitation only during contact tracing investigations.

Officials said they previously received 742 doses of the Jynneos vaccine for the entire county. An additional 886 more doses of the vaccine are being delivered on Tuesday.

Many of the doses are being allocated to large healthcare systems, while vaccine is also being administered directly by the county.

"The county is working diligently to distribute monkeypox vaccines equitably, in line with the CDC's national monkeypox vaccine strategy," said deputy health officer Dr. George Han. "This approach prioritizes vaccinating people who are at highest risk first."

While the county is set to receive hundreds more doses, supplies remain limited. "As has been the case across the country, more vaccine is needed from the federal government supply to meet local demand as more individuals test positive and vaccine eligibility expands over time to everyone who needs it," Han said.

As of Tuesday, officials report 23 cases of monkeypox among Santa Clara County residents.

While anyone can get the monkeypox, the current outbreak has disproportionately affected gay and bisexual men. The limited supply of vaccines has caused frustration among the Bay Area's LGBTQ+ community, who have criticized the federal response.

Dr. John Swartzberg is an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley. He says while the majority  of the current monkeypox cases are being reported in men who have sex with other men.

"It's terribly important we identify the people who are at high risk for getting this and make sure that they're protected," said Dr. Swartzberg.  

The disease can be spread by any close, skin to skin contact – including kissing -- that lasts for an extended period of time. Unlike COVID, monkeypox is not considered an airborne disease.

"It's not a worry for people who are going to the grocery store or around people sitting on BART next to somebody," Swartzberg added.

Each county in the Bay Area is getting a supply of the vaccine from the federal government and it's then up to each county health department to determine how to distribute it.

Health officials said they have partnered with LGBTQ+ community organizations to spread awareness on vaccine eligibility and to plan outreach events.

Individuals eligible for the vaccine include people who have had direct contact with someone confirmed to have monkeypox, individuals who attended an event or venue where someone contagious and had direct physical contact, along with men who have sex with men that meet certain risk criteria.

A full list of vaccine eligibility requirements, along with information about vaccine access can be found by visiting the county health department website.

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