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Californians increasingly searching for limited monkeypox vaccines

People line up to get a monkeypox vaccine at Ted Watkins Park in Watts.
People line up to get a monkeypox vaccine at Ted Watkins Park in Watts.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

California cities — including Palm Springs, Los Angeles and San Francisco — are leading the nation in online searches for monkeypox vaccines, underscoring the growing challenge of finding and accessing the limited doses as cases of the rare virus continue to rise.

Eight of the top 10 metro areas searching online for nearby monkeypox vaccines over the last week were in California, according to Google Trends. The Jynneos vaccine, which has been approved for protection from monkeypox preventatively and post-exposure, remains in short supply across the nation. Clinics report long waitlists for the vaccine, and images from many U.S. cities have shown people in lines snaking around city blocks to get the shots.

California is second only to New York in state monkeypox counts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. San Francisco last week declared a state of emergency amid the rapid spread of the illness — a decision also taken by New York — and on Monday, Illinois and California did the same.

Monkeypox continues to disproportionately infect gay and bisexual men, and many LGBTQ activists have called for more to be done — including greater access to vaccines, which are in high demand but short supply.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California over the spread of the monkeypox virus in order to “bolster the state’s vaccination efforts.”

L.A. County public health officials have said they created eligibility parameters to be able to reach those most at risk because the vaccine stockpile from the federal government is so limited. They have received 24,000 doses, which have been distributed among county-run and other partner vaccine distributors, and officials say they hope to get more.

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San Francisco and Los Angeles together make up about two-thirds of California’s almost 800 monkeypox cases. But the Google Trends analysis of where people were most searching “monkeypox vaccine near me” included not only the state’s two largest cities, but also Bakersfield, Sacramento and Fresno, among others.

Miami and Washington, D.C., were the two non-California metro areas that made Google’s top 10 regions searching for nearby monkeypox vaccines.

Presumed or confirmed cases have almost doubled in L.A. County over the last week, climbing to 400 Monday. In San Francisco, 310 cases were reported Monday, up almost 44% from a week prior.

Some are asking: ‘Would monkeypox have received a stronger response if it were not primarily affecting queer folks?’

The majority of cases in California have been confirmed in men who identify as gay, bisexual or part of the LGBTQ community, according to state data. Some cases also have been confirmed in transgender or nonbinary people.

While monkeypox isn’t considered a sexually transmitted disease, it spreads easily during sexual encounters or other close skin-to-skin contact, experts say. It also can spread on towels or bedding that have touched the virus or through respiratory secretions, such as during kissing. Monkeypox is rarely deadly, but its lesions can be extremely painful.

California health officials say the risk of monkeypox to the general public remains low as it spreads much less easily compared to an airborne virus such as the coronavirus. However, monkeypox can spread to anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and has been confirmed in two children and a pregnant woman.


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