Los Angeles Times

Monkeypox vaccine search is heating up

Eight of the top 10 cities where people are hunting online are in California.

- By Grace Toohey

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 where people over the last week were searching online for nearby monkeypox vaccines 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 waiting lists for the vaccine; images from many cities show people in lines snaking around blocks to get the shots.

California is second to New York in terms of monkeypox cases by state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California, as well as Illinois, declared a state of emergency Monday amid the rapid spread of the virus; San Francisco and New York did so last week.

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.

Los Angeles County public health officials have said they created eligibilit­y parameters to reach those most at risk, because the vaccine stockpile from the federal government is so limited. The Public Health Department has received 24,000 doses, which have been distribute­d among county-run and other partner vaccine distributo­rs, and officials say they hope to get more.

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 searching “monkeypox vaccine near me” included not only the state’s two largest cities but Bakersfiel­d, Sacramento and Fresno, among others.

Among Google’s top 10 metro areas for vaccine searches, the only two not in California were Miami and Washington, D.C.

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

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.

Although monkeypox isn’t considered to be 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 occur 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 than airborne viruses 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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