Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Monday for monkeypox, enabling the state to access more resources to combat the ongoing outbreak.
The declaration will assist state and local government agencies collaborate to conduct outreach regarding monkeypox vaccines and treatment, seek more vaccine doses and rapidly open vaccination and testing facilities.
Emergency medical personnel are also authorized to administer monkeypox vaccines under the proclamation. The authorization is similar to that granted to pharmacists, according to the governor's office.
"California is working urgently across all levels of government to slow the spread of monkeypox, leveraging our robust testing, contact tracing and community partnerships strengthened during the pandemic to ensure that those most at risk are our focus for vaccines, treatment and outreach," Newsom said in a statement.
Newsom's proclamation comes three days after Dr. Tomas Aragon, the state's public health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, said state officials had not yet committed to declaring a public health emergency over the outbreak.
Aragon argued Friday in a media briefing that the state is using information gathered over the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic about virus spread and surveillance to combat the monkeypox outbreak.
On Tuesday, Louise Rogers, San Mateo County Health chief, said the extent of monkeypox cases in the county is fortunately limited, thus far. The county is working with other Bay Area health authorities to have a coordinated response as the cases continue to grow throughout the region, she told the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.
The cases continue to be prevalent among men who have sex with other men, which leads it to be a regional challenge. The focus is in San Francisco, where the majority of cases are found, she said.
Stemming the spread is difficult because of inadequate vaccine supply from the federal government. The vaccine can prevent the infection or greatly reduce its symptoms, she said.
Rogers said she hoped the state's declared monkeypox health emergency would spur the federal government to make more vaccines available to California. The county has received 650 doses so far, which it shares throughout the San Mateo County Health System.
Part of the county's vaccine supply is being sent to San Francisco to help control the outbreak there. A July 26 health advisory from the county health department noted the vaccination sharing may include publicly available vaccination sites in San Francisco, Alameda County, and Berkeley and Kaiser Permanente locations in San Mateo County and Stanford Health Care, which serve at-risk patients who are regularly seen through these healthcare systems.
Marc Meulman, director of county public health, policy, and planning, said the county is working collaboratively with regional and state authorities to conduct case investigations and do contact tracing, targeting those persons as the priorities for preventing the spread of infection, he said.
Anyone who is concerned that they might have monkeypox should go to their medical provider, he said.
Statewide vaccine strategy
While state officials have sought to reassure the public that the risk of contracting monkeypox remains very low, efforts to procure more doses of the Jynneos vaccine for smallpox and monkeypox have hampered a swift effort to curb the outbreak.
The state had received just over 37,000 doses of the two-dose vaccine as of Friday, with the expectation of receiving another 72,000 doses as soon as this week.
Los Angeles County has also already received or expects to receive more than 50,000 doses that are not part of the state's total.
But both of those totals are a far cry from the 600,000 to 800,000 vaccine doses Aragon and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly requested from the federal government last month.
In a letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ghaly and Aragon called that request a conservative estimate of the state's true vaccine demand.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials said Friday the production of vaccine doses is likely to increase substantially in the coming weeks after the agency expedited approval of manufacturing changes and expanded factory capacity.
Until more doses are available, state officials have focused on administering the first of the vaccine's two doses to as many eligible people as possible to ensure those who are high risk have at least some protection.
Those who have already been vaccinated will eventually receive their second dose, but it may be longer than the vaccine's standard four-week waiting period between doses.
"We thank Gov. Newsom for today's state of emergency declaration, which supports California's response and vaccination efforts to protect Californians from monkeypox," said Michelle Gibbons, the executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California. "We continue to urge our federal partners to expedite distribution of crucial vaccines and to provide funding flexibility for local public health departments to protect our communities from this growing public health threat."
In the greater Bay Area, monkeypox cases have been reported in Alameda, Napa, Contra Costa, San Mateo, San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and Marin counties.
According to the CDPH, 786 probable and confirmed monkeypox cases have been reported statewide. Two-thirds of those cases have been reported in just Los Angeles County and San Francisco.
The vast majority of monkeypox cases in California have been among gay or bisexual men between the ages of 25 and 54, according to state data. More than 80% of the total cases have also been detected in white and Hispanic or Latino people.
Health officials have stressed that the virus is not specific to any sexual orientation and is mostly being spread by skin-to-skin contact rather than more intimate activities like kissing or sexual activity.
Information from the CDPH on who is eligible to get tested for monkeypox, who is eligible to get vaccinated and symptoms of the virus can be found at cdph.ca.gov.