California public health officials called on the federal government this week to supply more than 500,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomas Aragon expressed a need for at least 600,000 to 800,000 doses of the two-dose Jynneos vaccine for monkeypox and smallpox, which is developed by the Danish biotechnology company Bavarian Nordic.
Ghaly and Aragon said that while its request was a conservative estimate, the additional vaccine doses would allow the state to expand eligibility to people with both confirmed and probable exposures to the virus as well as those who have a higher risk of contracting the virus.
"Unlike the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when we did not have a vaccine to mitigate the spread, in the case of monkeypox we do have an approved vaccine that should be effective," Ghaly and Aragon said in the letter.
As of Thursday, the state has received reports of 356 probable and confirmed cases of monkeypox, 31 of which are in Santa Clara County. However, public health officials have said that the risk of the general public contracting the virus is currently very low.
Monkeypox is generally spread through skin-to-skin contact or bodily fluids via kissing, breathing at close range, sexual activity and sharing bedding or clothing. Health officials have stressed that the virus is not airborne like COVID-19 or the flu.
Symptoms can include a rash or sores on the skin anywhere on a patient's body. Contraction of the virus often begins with flu-like symptoms as well.
The virus has been confirmed globally in many men who identify as gay or bisexual, but public health officials have stressed that the virus is not exclusive to men who are attracted to men, and anyone can contract monkeypox via close contact with an infected person.
Regardless, state and local health officials have partnered with LGBTQ community organizations to raise awareness of the virus and limit its spread.
"To ensure that we not further stigmatize this population, we have been working proactively with local and community-based partners to develop resources, deploy vaccine clinics, and ensure appropriate messaging that is inclusive," Ghaly and Aragon said.
"We have more work ahead of us to stop the spread of the virus," they said. "To do that, we must deploy all tools in our toolbox, including the available vaccine."