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California considering monkeypox state of emergency as vaccines remain ‘very scarce’

Sacramento Bee - 7/29/2022

California health officials on Friday stopped short of declaring a state of emergency over the continuing monkeypox outbreak but said they are treating the disease with “the utmost urgency.”

State public health leaders are focused on distributing vaccines, testing, sharing prevention information and “doing what we can do to increase access to treatment,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, California Department of Public Health director and the state’s public health officer, during a call with reporters.

“The virus has impacted more than 750 Californians to date,” Aragón said. “And we know that this has been incredibly challenging for those individuals and families. We remain focused on doing what we can to reduce risk, increase awareness and get additional access to vaccines and treatments.”

CDPH is also committed to “reducing stigma among the LGBTQ community, which has been singled out and treated unfairly because of this outbreak,” Aragón said.

“No single individual or community is to blame for the spread of any virus,” he said.

Aragón discussed California’s monkeypox strategy about two and half months after the state confirmed its first case of the virus in Sacramento County.

Monkeypox can infect anyone, but it has primarily affected gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender people, in the United States.

The disease can be painful and causes a rash of blisters and flu-like symptoms, although it’s rarely fatal. It spreads through close contact with other people or linens, like sheets and towels, that infected people have touched.

Since the first diagnosis, California has recorded 786 monkeypox cases, with 261 in Los Angeles and 257 in San Francisco as of Tuesday, according to the CDPH.

Sacramento County has seen 43 monkeypox cases as of Friday, according to the county Public Health Department. Placer County recorded its first case on Wednesday.

Nationwide, the United States has recorded 4,906 cases of the disease as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

World Health Organization officials on July 23 declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern.”

California monkeypox response

Aragón said CDPH is “looking carefully to decide whether we need to do an official declaration of emergency to see what additional authority or resources that may mobilize.”

“At the moment, we’re continuing to do everything that we’re doing right now, which is primarily really mobilizing the tremendous resources and infrastructure that we’ve that we’ve built for COVID and using it now for monkeypox,” Aragón said.

“We’re in a much better situation to be able to deal with monkeypox than if this had occurred two years ago when we didn’t have all the all the infrastructure and resources available,” he added. “Including our ability to coordinate closely with local health jurisdictions, deal with vaccine clinics. All of that infrastructure is really coming into play right now.”

Aragón acknowledged monkeypox vaccine doses are currently “very scarce.” He said the state has so far received 37,169 vaccine doses and has sent 25,311 doses to local public health departments and mobile clinics, not including more Los Angeles County doses.

The state is expecting an additional 72,000 doses from the federal government and 48,000 more for Los Angeles County, he said.

CDPH is currently prioritizing vaccine doses for places with the highest number of monkeypox cases, Aragón said.

Sacramento County has received 2,620 doses of the vaccine to date, and officials expect to receive another allocation of 578 doses, the Public Health Department reported.

Aragón said CDPH plans to help reduce stigma the LGBTQ community has faced as a result of the monkeypox outbreak by “(getting) accurate information out there and help people to really understand how it’s spread” and that it’s “not related to sexual orientation.”

He said CDPH wants to “make sure that we craft the right kinds of messages and do the right type of outreach that resonates with our community, but, at the same time, isn’t disrespectful.”

State leaders want more monkeypox resources

California lawmakers have recently called for more state and federal resources to combat monkeypox.

San Francisco officials on Thursday announced the city was declaring its own state of emergency, with Mayor London Breed criticizing the federal response to the disease outbreak.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, has been outspoken about the need for more monkeypox vaccines, testing and education in San Francisco and throughout the state.

On Wednesday, he called for California and San Francisco to declare monkeypox states of emergency, saying gay and bisexual men and transgender people “are being left behind once again.”

“State of emergency declarations will create significant flexibility around testing, contracting for services, and administration of vaccinations. It will allow us to use all the resources in our power to contain the outbreak,” Wiener said. “Right now, we don’t have enough vaccines or testing, and we need flexibility to expand access to both. We have no time to waste: this is happening now, it’s serious, and we need to do everything we can to contain it.”

Wiener and other members of the Legislature earlier in the month also called for an emergency budget appropriation to help combat the monkeypox outbreak.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, on July 20 called for U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra to declare a national public health emergency over monkeypox, saying the federal response “needs to be ramped up so we can control and stop the spread of this painful disease.”

Becerra on Thursday said HHS has not decided whether to declare a national state of emergency, saying state and local governments “need to work with us” to prevent monkeypox.

Where can I get a monkeypox vaccine?

The Sacramento County Public Health Department is distributing monkeypox vaccines to those who have been exposed to the disease or are at higher risk of contracting it.

Clinics and pharmacies are currently providing doses to men who have sex with men or transgender people who meet certain criteria.

The Sacramento LGBT Community Center at 1045 20th St. in Sacramento on Monday will host a walk-up monkeypox vaccine clinic from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, email

Pucci’s Pharmacy at 3257 Folsom Blvd. in Sacramento is also providing monkeypox vaccines, although appointments were fully booked on Friday.

For more information about monkeypox vaccines in Sacramento County, contact the Immunization Assistance Program at 916-875-7468 or

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