Pacific Pride Foundation sees large turnout
The line outside the Pacific Pride Foundation office stretched half a block, and that was 15 minutes before the first vaccination shot was given.
That was the scene Thursday in Santa Barbara as the medical community worked together to prevent the spread of monkeypox.
There are now six confirmed cases in the county, said Dr. Henning Ansorg, the Santa Barbara County public health officer, who told the News-Press he thought Thursday’s effort with the Jynneos vaccine went well.
The vaccine was administered to about 150 people, said Kristin Flickinger, the executive director of Pacific Pride Foundation, a longtime county nonprofit that works with the LBGTQ+ community.
Ms. Flickinger noted the county Public Health Department, Planned Parenthood, UCSB, Cottage Health and Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics helped with the vaccination effort, which included providing the people needed to make it happen.
“It was an amazing volunteer response,” Ms. Flickinger said. “We had retired infectious disease doctors and nurses. We had someone who walked in and got vaccinated and said, ‘I’d like to volunteer. I’m a nurse.’ ”
The target groups for the vaccine are men who have had intimate contact with other men and people who have been exposed to the monkeypox virus, Dr. Ansorg said.
Those eligible for the shots include gay or bisexual men and transgender persons 18 and older.
Ms. Flickinger said most of those getting the vaccine Thursday were men and that the recipients were adults of all ages.
“The risk for the general population is really quite low,” Dr. Ansorg told the News-Press Friday. “It’s not spread as easily as COVID or influenza or smallpox. It really requires a closer physical contact with a person who has the virus. For instance, cuddling, kissing, sexual activity, sharing a bed, things like that is how the transmission occurs.”
Monkeypox can also spread through the sharing of towels or bedding, but Dr. Ansorg said that’s a rare form of transmission. “If you’re isolating because of monkeypox, you shouldn’t share towels or bedding.”
He stressed that monkeypox is a much less dangerous disease than COVID-19.
“We have seen 36,000 confirmed cases worldwide, and we’ve only seen 12 deaths. Those people had very rundown immune systems,” he said. “We’re seeing very few hospitalizations.
“That’s why we don’t recommend vaccinations for everybody,” he said.
But Dr. Ansorg said he is concerned about the limited number of doses available for those who do need the shots, although he noted that it helped on Thursday that each vial could be split into three smaller doses.
The FDA approved that split, in which the vaccine retains its effectiveness by going right under the skin. (The vaccine doesn’t contain the viruses that cause monkeypox or smallpox, according to an FDA fact sheet.)
“We have about close to 800 doses and have given almost 200,” Dr. Ansorg said. “We’re giving them to infectious disease clinics at Sanusm, Planned Parenthood, UCSB Health, Neighborhood Clinics, the Lompoc Health Center, health centers of North County. We are spreading it around, so clinics can give it to people who have had contact (with someone who has monkeypox) or who fall in the high-risk category.”
Dr. Ansorg said the Public Health Department is waiting to receive more vaccines from the California Department of Public Health, which gets its doses from the federal government.
And the federal government announced it’s releasing more doses from the Strategic National Stockpile.
Dr. Ansorg said monkeypox typically begins with flu-like symptoms, including fatigue and aches. “Then it follows pretty quickly in one or two days with a rash, and the lesions look a little bit like chicken pox. They change into bigger blisters.
“Depending on where these lesions are — close to your eye, on the genitals — they can be quite painful and uncomfortable,” Dr. Ansorg said. “It’s not a fun disease to get, but it’s not like you will end up in the hospital and die from it,” he said.
“We want to do our best to educate people and get them vaccinated and prevent it from spreading more,” Dr. Ansorg said.
Said Ms. Flickinger of the Pacific Pride Foundation, “If you meet the qualifications to get a vaccine, there’s no reason not to.”
Pacific Pride Foundation’s next monkeypox vaccination clinic will take place 5-8 p.m. Aug. 25 at the PPF/Family Service Agency building at 105 N. Lincoln St., Santa Maria. Those getting the shots are required to bring a drivers’ license, state ID, student ID or a bill or other piece of mail with their name and address.