Many SF residents turned down for monkeypox vaccine 2 days in row amid high demand, limited supply

ByJ.R. Stone and Lena Howland via KGO logo
Wednesday, July 13, 2022
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Long lines were formed outside of San Francisco General Hospital Tuesday, with residents trying to receive the monkeypox vaccine amid a high demand.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and other community leaders held a press conference on Tuesday, calling for more vaccine doses for residents amid an increase in monkeypox cases in the city.

The press conference came as there were again long lines outside of San Francisco General Hospital as people lined up to try and get the monkeypox vaccine.

"I was recently informed of a direct contact so I need to get one," said Atrish Bagchi who even after waiting, was unable to get the vaccine due to demand, and will try again Wednesday.

VIDEO: How SF's responding to influx in monkeypox cases as demand increases for vaccines

As of Tuesday, the total number of reported monkeypox cases in San Francisco residents has reached 60.

These include both probable cases, as well as cases that are confirmed as monkeypox through the CDC.

Bagchi says he saw his friend who has monkeypox during a recent trip to New York.

"They're pretty sick. They have the lesions, fever, etc.," said Bagchi.

San Francisco's director of public health, Dr. Grant Colfax, says the city is requesting 35,000 doses of the vaccine from the state to meet the increase in demand for those at high risk. This is a starting point with the larger goal of making the vaccine available to anyone who wants one.

VIDEO: Fear spread over monkeypox as SF leaders fume over fed's response

"It is distressing that in July of 2022, here at the health department we are literally begging our federal partners to provide more vaccine so we can get it into the arms of people who need it most," Dr. Colfax said. "After 2.5 years of another pandemic, we have the vaccine, we know what is needed to control this disease, and yet we're left begging every day on the phone. Our teams are working hard with so many partners to get vaccine into arms. But so far, we've received just 2,888 vaccines from the state.... this is since the beginning of June. And of that almost 2,900 vaccines, just over 2,300 of them arrived this week."

He says more than 95% of these vaccines are now at community clinics and sites across San Francisco.

"This is a real risk right now, not only in San Francisco but across the country and unfortunately across the globe," Dr. Colfax says. "While monkeypox is not as transmissible as COVID nor as potentially deadly, thank goodness, monkeypox can be serious and it is certainly unsightly and uncomfortable."

As long lines wrap around the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Learning Center, the city's only drop-in site for monkeypox vaccinations, public health leaders are scrambling behind the scenes.

"We are day by day, hour by hour with how much vaccine we have available but we are committed to giving out as much vaccine as we have and we are able to do," Dr. Susan Philip, SFDPH Officer said.

VIDEO: CDC releases new details about how monkeypox virus spreads, what to keep in mind

But the current supply of vaccinations isn't keeping up with demand.

"We're giving out, at most, hundreds a day, and we need to move more quickly than that," Mandelman said.

Supervisor Mandelman introduced a resolution to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to help speed up the response.

"We see the problem, we know there's a response," he said. "Unlike HIV/AIDS, there's a treatment, there's a vaccine we can give out right now, but we just don't have enough of it, it's very frustrating."

With plans by the City's Department of Public Health in place to work with community-based organizations to help those at the highest risk, once more supply starts to roll in.

"We will have routes to get this to people, whether they are in care with a provider, whether they don't have care, we will provide those routes as we get more vaccine," Philip said.

RELATED: San Francisco health officials warn of possible monkeypox exposure following Pride event

"The insufficient federal response is reflective of an institutional callousness to issues that affect gay and bisexual men and trans people," Mandelman tweeted Tuesday.

Mandelman said, "Despite fully vaccinating over 40 million people for COVID-19 just three months after the first shots were administered, HHS is only planning to fully vaccinate 2 million of the 5.9 million gay and bisexual men and trans people living in the U.S. by the end of 2023."

"That is an abysmal goal, and this should be a preventable public health crisis," he tweeted. "Unlike COVID-19, we did not have to wait for new vaccines to be developed, and unlike COVID-19, monkeypox does not seem to spread effectively through respiratory droplets. Yet here we are, with cases rising and urgent action by federal public health institutions absent. Local officials, providers, and activists are left to beg for an adequate response - the response monkeypox would have received if it didn't primarily affect queer people."

See more stories and videos about monkeypox here.

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