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Monkeypox infections may have peaked in San Diego as vaccine events continue with limited supply

San Diego County’s latest monkeypox vaccine event was held in Chula Vista on Wednesday and Thursday. All 800 appointments made available Monday were booked up within 45 minutes.

"It says that the need is out there," San Diego County public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. "The need is great and people are anxious just to get scheduled."

More than 3,600 monkeypox cases have been reported in California, with 290 in San Diego County as of Thursday. Wooten said the goal still remains to vaccinate everyone in the high-risk category, but supplies are limited. So far, the region has gotten about 6,000 vials of doses, while five times that has been requested.

"We haven’t received everything we’ve asked for, but we’ve gotten our allocations," Wooten said.

Anyone can contract monkeypox and most people do not need to be hospitalized. It can cause flu-like symptoms along with painful rashes or lesions. Currently, infections are largely among men who have sex with men. The county estimates the at-risk population to be about 66,000 people.

Doses are being stretched with an intradermal injection method that delivers a smaller amount of vaccine but still offers the same protection. Wooten said more supply from the state will go toward vaccine events and local providers will come to town next week.

"Those numbers are higher than the previous allocations," Wooten said. "So that’s good news, but again we’ll share the exact numbers next week when we actually have the vaccines in hand."

State officials report infections are mainly spreading through sex. General close skin-to-skin contact is another transmission form, including intimate contact. Wooten said San Diego County may have seen infections peak locally in early August, similar to trends in statewide data.

"On the (California Department of Public Health) website, you will also see their epi-curve and it’s showing very similar patterns — the fact that we peaked and are on the downslope," Wooten said. "But we are still seeing cases every other day."

On Thursday, San Diego State University announced its first case of monkeypox in a student who lives off campus. The student has had limited access to campus, and the exposure risk is low, according to an email from the university.

Wooten said they technically declare an outbreak over when there are no cases for twice the virus’s incubation period, in this case, about 42 days. Despite local, state and federal monkeypox emergency declarations, San Diego County isn’t getting any federal funds for its response, but Wooten said state officials just announced the state will offer some financial support.

"We don't have it in hand yet and not sure how exactly how much it's going to be — it's not a lot," she said. "And it has to be divided across all of the jurisdictions that have cases."

Even so, Wooten said the local response is not in jeopardy.

"We have to do the right thing and not worry about where the money is going to come," she said.

Another county-sponsored monkeypox vaccine event will soon be announced in North County. If in supply, vaccines can also be found at county clinics, local clinics and local health care providers. Appointments may be required.

County officials use a text-alert system to notify people when vaccine appointments are made available. To sign up, text "COSD MONKEYPOX" to 468-311.

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