Skip to main content
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

California Declares Emergency To Fight Hepatitis A Outbreak

October 16, 2017 1:08 p.m.

California Declares Emergency To Fight Hepatitis A Outbreak


Dr. Wilma Wooten, public health officer, San Diego County

Related Story: California Declares Emergency To Fight Hepatitis A Outbreak


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

The effort underway to vaccinate at risk populations in California against hepatitis A is draining the supply. It was confirmed on Friday when Jerry Brown release and emergency declaration on the subject. It allows California to buy vaccine directly from drug companies. San Diego county said that so far more than 60,000 vaccinations has been administered in our county alone. Joining me is Doctor Wilma Wooten , public health officer. Welcome to the program.

Thank you.

How much hepatitis A vaccine do you have on hand right now?

We have private and public supplies of vaccine. I don't want to give out the actual number that we have but we are assessing the amount that is also in the community. We don't have a shortage, but we have limited supplies. I think that is the most important thing. Given the limited supply, we want to focus our efforts on vaccinating those individuals that are at risk. That is our primary goal until more vaccine is available.

Do you have enough vaccine for 40,000 more vaccinations?

We do have enough vaccines to vaccinate another 40,000 individuals, but we may need to vaccinate more than that depending upon how the outbreak is characterized and goes over the next several months. Our primary goal is to reach that immunity which is 80% of the target population. We've identified the target population of being anywhere from 200,000 and as low as 125,000 for a list of drug users as well as a home is population. Our goal is to try to vaccinate -- that we've chosen to land on in then target other at risk groups that aside from the homeless and the drug users so that we can ensure that we do have immunity and ensure that we don't have this outbreak extending into the general population as well.

Outside of the target population that you speak of how confident are you that you will be able to vaccinate every one who wants one question mark

We are not trying to vaccinate everyone not that wants one. We would be asking those individuals if they don't fall into the at risk or the at risk populations or the at risk professions that are working with services to the groups, we would be asking individuals in the general population that wants to get it, to wait until we would have a more ample supply available.

What do you think that would be

Sometime in the beginning of the new year.

They are in high demand after Mayor Faulkner announced that paramedics and nurses have new authority to vaccinate at risk people. What will is the county playing in that effort?

We are providing the training for those individuals and as the local emergency medical service agency, we are involved from that regard and we made the request to the state before it was included in the declaration of the state of emergency. Our staff providing the training for these paramedics so they can appropriately store and administer the vaccine.

David Alvarez and Scott Peters have called for testing the San Diego river for evidence of the hepatitis A virus. Is there any evidence that tainted water near homeless encampment is contributing to the virus spread?

There is no evidence. You would have to consume or drink the water. Being near the water would not give anybody hepatitis A Eco

Is it infecting that San Diego river?

There is no evidence of that.

From May to August you reported 20 new cases per week and then recently you said it's about two or three per day. Two they would be 14 a week down from 20. I guess I'm asking are using evidence that the outbreak is slowing down?

There is evidence that the numbers are decreasing but we need more than a one point in time. We did see a decrease from August to September. We can't put our entire hat on that to say that things are going in the right direction. That is a movement in the right direction but does not establish a trend. We would need to see the results for the month of October as well as November before we can say we are taking a downward trend with the outbreak.

I've been speaking with Wilma Wooten, public health officer . Thank you.

You are welcome.