Long Beach increases monkeypox vaccine supply

Long Beach has increased its stockpile of monkeypox vaccine and could provide doses to eligible people currently seeking protection against the virus, which has infected thousands across the country, city officials said Wednesday at a press conference.

So far, the city has been able to vaccinate about 300 people, city officials said, but until recently had lacked sufficient supplies of the JYNNEOS vaccine to inoculate the list of about 1,600 people who have filed requests with the city.

Long Beach received 500 more doses over the weekend and is starting to call those people back to schedule appointments, officials said.

“All of you will be contacted in the next 24 hours,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “We finally have enough vaccine to schedule your appointment if you are actually qualified to receive a vaccine.”

The first presumed case of the virus was reported July 19, and the number of cases has since risen to 12, according to city data.

To be eligible for the vaccine, a person must have been exposed to a confirmed case, work in a setting that could expose them to monkeypox, be gay, bisexual or transgender and be on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, have been diagnosed with certain sexually transmitted diseases or have had anonymous sex with multiple partners.

Kelly Colopy, the city’s director of Health and Human Services, said the city has about 1,000 doses between what it has on hand and what has been distributed to community partners that will also be vaccinating people for monkeypox, and it’s anticipating another shipment of about 500 doses in the coming days.

Long Beach has partnered with the LGBTQ Center, APLA Health Center, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the Long Beach Comprehensive Health Center and St. Mary Medical Center Care Program to help distribute vaccines.

Some of those entities are already vaccinating people, Colopy said, while The Center is still finishing some required paperwork to be able to participate. Each has been allocated 100 doses.

Colopy said the city has already scheduled about 400 appointments for monkeypox vaccinations and will be hosting a vaccine clinic next week to try to reach other eligible people who want to be vaccinated.

“We anticipate that we’ll have sufficient vaccine to vaccinate those folks and we’re hoping for more to be able to meet more demand,” Colopy said.

The JYNNEOS vaccine typically requires two shots given 28 days apart. Like with the city’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the city will be prioritizing first doses, Long Beach Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis said.

The virus is in the same family as smallpox but considered less deadly by health experts. Symptoms of monkeypox include flu-like symptoms, exhaustion and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that can appear on the face, inside the mouth or on a person’s hands, feet or genitals.

The rash can be painful but an investigational new drug called TPOXX has been approved to help treat some of the symptoms, but a person but ask their health provider for a referral. Davis said that most people don’t actually need TPOXX and instead need pain management medications and to hydrate.

The virus is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person’s body fluids or lesions, contaminated materials like clothing or linens and prolonged face-to-face contact with an infected person.

Health experts say that only a symptomatic person can spread Monkeypox and have encouraged people exhibiting symptoms to stay home in isolation.

A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 98% of the cases found in 16 countries between April and June were among gay or bisexual men. While men who have sex with other men have been the majority of cases, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease and anyone who comes into contact with an infected person or animal could contract the virus.

Davis and others cautioned that because “vast majority of cases to date have been found in gay and bisexual men, the virus shouldn’t be misconstrued to be something that only affects that population.”

The city’s current messaging to the LGBTQ+ community is based on what data has shown is the situation at hand, Davis said.

“It is definitely important to realize and for everyone to be aware that this is not a gay disease,” Davis said. “The activities are activities that we all do. Cuddling, sex, dancing, kissing and so it’s important for all of us to be aware, not panic, of what the risk activities are.”

Monkeypox was first detected in the United States in mid-May, but has quickly expanded with New York (900) having the most cases of any state in the country, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Data from the CDC shows that nearly 3,600 cases have been detected in the United States, 356 of which were in California.

Long Beach has created a website dedicated to monkeypox information that includes a link to a pre-registration survey that the city wants people to fill out to help it determine their eligibility for a vaccine.

Those eligible for the vaccine should call their health provider. If they don’t have a health provider, they can call the city’s public health hotline (562-570-7907) for assistance in getting tested and vaccinated.

Explainer: Monkeypox has arrived in Long Beach. Who’s at risk and who can get vaccinated?

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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