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Public health officials urge mpox vaccinations ahead of LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations

 A rainbow Pride flag blows in the wind at the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, located in the Lavender Heights District of Midtown, Sacramento on May 31. 2023.

Kate Wolffe / CapRadio
Stonewall Alliance Center of Chico
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Facebook
Stonewall Alliance Center of Chico, the LGBTQIA+ community center, is located in Chico, Calif.

The head of California’s sexually transmitted disease control branch is sounding the alarm for health care providers to be prepared for a possible resurgence of mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, this summer.

In a letter published May 30, Dr. Kathleen Jacobson noted that mpox continues to spread in California, and “other states have recently reported a resurgence of mpox cases,” including an outbreak in Chicago, where 13 people, many of whom were vaccinated, got the disease.

“As 2023 spring and summer season gatherings approach, we encourage you to maintain a high level of suspicion and a low threshold for testing individuals with signs and symptoms consistent with mpox,” Jacobson said, in the letter to health care professionals.

Since the majority of mpox cases have been reported in gay and bisexual men who contracted the disease after intimate contact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommend mpox vaccination for men who have sex with men (MSM), women who have a sexual partner who could be exposed and anyone else who could come in contact with the virus, including laboratory workers. The disease can also be spread through non-sexual close contact.

A global outbreak of the disease was declared in May of 2022 and it was referred to as monkeypox until November of that year, when the World Health Organization changed the name to mpox in response to racist and stigmatizing language proliferating online.

Local, state and federal officials were also criticized last year by activists and health care professionals, who called for additional vaccine doses to be made available and distributed more quickly. This year, more people are eligible to receive the shot and supply is not limited. California residents can find a clinic to get the shot for free on the state’s MyTurn website.

Since May 2022, over 5,700 people in California have been diagnosed with mpox and 250 have been hospitalized, according to the state’s public health dashboard.

Counties have cumulatively administered over 300,000 vaccines, but in her letter, Jacobson said only 39% of people most at risk have received the two-dose regimen. Black and Latino people, who are disproportionately infected with the disease, lag behind other groups when it comes to getting vaccinated.

Despite some recent cases of vaccinated people getting mpox, the CDC and California Department of Public Health maintain that the shot prevents more serious infection. Recent studies have shown the two-dose Jynneos vaccine series is between 66% and 86% effective at preventing mpox among at-risk people.

I’m interested in how health care policy impacts Sacramento and California, who gets access to care and the issues facing health care providers.
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