Sonoma County holds first monkeypox vaccine clinics this week at Guerneville’s Lazy Bear Week
Amid growing frustration over the lack of monkeypox vaccine, local health officials and health care providers are quietly launching the county’s first community vaccine clinics this week at the Lazy Bear Week event in Guerneville.
Sonoma County health officials have provided 500 doses of the vaccine for two clinics, scheduled for Monday and Friday, according to sources involved in the public health effort.
It’s a significant number, given that the county has so far received only about 800 doses of monkeypox vaccine from the California Department of Public Health, to be distributed to local health care providers across the county.
West County Health Centers, which will be spearheading the clinics in Guerneville, had previously only received 20 doses. The local Kaiser Permanente medical center will also be providing staff for the clinics.
“We’re all out of the 20 doses of vaccine,” said Dr. Jason Cunningham, CEO of West County Health Centers.
The call for more vaccine has grown since the current global monkeypox outbreak was first reported in May. Since then, the number of cases has grown to 22,485 in 79 countries. Of those countries, 70 have not historically reported monkeypox outbreaks.
The United States now has 5,189 suspected or confirmed monkeypox cases, with California reporting 799. A total of six cases have been reported in Sonoma County, but infectious disease experts believe those official case numbers are low because of the lack of testing.
California public health officials said Friday that so far 10,299 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine had been distributed to counties. State officials said county-by-county distribution is based on a number of factors, including the number of reported monkeypox cases and estimates of populations at risk.
State officials would not provide further details about how they calculated the size of a county’s population at risk. Infectious disease experts say that the overwhelming majority of monkeypox cases have occurred among gay and bisexual men through intimate contact.
Because of the low supply of vaccine, local health officials and health care providers involved in the inoculation clinics in Guerneville did not widely publicize them. They’re hoping to reserve the shots for those who are most at-risk of contracting the virus.
The annual Lazy Bear Week gathering is a popular fundraising event that attracts hundreds of mostly gay men from across the globe to Guerneville for pool and beach parties, dancing and other social gatherings. It is one of the largest tourism events in Guerneville.
Sonoma County has received the fourth largest per share of monkeypox vaccine distributed by the state, about 157 doses per 100,000 residents. San Francisco, Berkeley and Los Angeles have respectively received 864, 415 and 240 doses per 100,000 people.
Given the lack of vaccine, much of the current supply has been given to those who have been exposed to a positive monkeypox case. But infectious disease experts and health care providers argue that to truly curb the spread of the virus a broader vaccination program is needed.
Dr. Jessica August, an infectious disease expert at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center, said the current supply of vaccine has been enough to inoculate those who may have been exposed to the virus.
“We we have been able to keep up with that demand,” August said. “However, we are very eager to be able to get ahead of it a bit more, meaning we would love to be able to vaccinate more broadly.”
August said government health officials have given assurances that more vaccine is coming soon.
On Friday, California’s two U.S. senators, Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein, sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, asking him to send at least 600,000 more doses to California. The senators point out that California currently has the second-highest monkeypox positivity rate in the country.
Meanwhile, San Francisco, with 257 confirmed or suspected cases, last week declared a state of emergency in response to the outbreak.
David Barker, president of the Lazy Bear Fund, which organizes Lazy Bear Week, said the vaccine clinics this week are an important part of his organization’s effort to maintain the safety of attendants. Barker pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing and proof of vaccination will be required for events, just as it was last year.
“Be aware of your body and be aware of your friends,” Barker said. “Do some research. Figure out how to minimize your risk, that would be really important.”
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or email@example.com. On Twitter @pressreno.
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