California Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency to assist in efforts to combat the spread of monkeypox, as areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco struggle to keep up with the demand for vaccinations.
Currently, Santa Barbara County has a total of 40 monkeypox vaccinations, and no known cases of the disease. Neighboring counties Ventura and Kern County have two and five cases respectively. Jackie Ruiz, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, said it is unclear when the county will receive additional vaccinations from the state.
“Right now, all we know is they’re coming later in the summer,” Ruiz said.
At this time, only those who have been exposed to an infectious person, or those working in labs that expose themselves to monkeypox, are eligible to receive a vaccine. Allocations of vaccinations for counties, Ruiz said, is determined by the number of monkeypox cases and the number of early syphilis cases in men. Santa Barbara County has a lower rate of early syphilis cases in men compared to the rest of the state, Ruiz said.
In May 2022, Dr. David Heymann, a leader at the World Health Organization, said one leading theory to explain the outbreak of monkeypox was sexual transmission during two raves held in Europe, attended mostly by gay and queer people. Some countries, such as Germany, linked cases to party events where sexual activity occurred. Gay and bisexual men were the most prominent group first affected by this outbreak, though anyone can become infected.
Kristin Flickinger, executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation, an organization that offers services and resources to the LGBT+ community, said her priority right now is educating the community about this disease and how to prevent infection. Most of the questions and concerns from the community, she said, involve how and where to get a vaccination.