Just a few weeks ago, Santa Barbara County had fewer than 40 vaccine doses for monkeypox, which is now being referred to as Mpox.
Thursday, health officials are readying the second Mpox vaccine clinic this month in Santa Barbara County, which will be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pacific Pride Foundation at 105 N. Lincoln Street in Santa Maria.
The way the vaccine is administered has changed. Before, health providers could only use one vial per person but now they can vaccinate many more people.
“You can just use a fifth of the whole vial and it has the same effect and it's easy to do," said Dr. Henning Ansorg, public health officer for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.
Initially, the vaccine was injected into the fat tissue under the skin. Now, health providers can inject it into the skin, similar to a tuberculosis test as the process is intradermal.
Santa Barbara County currently has 265 vials of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate more than 1,000 people against Mpox.
The County partnered with several local organizations to hold the recent clinics, including the Pacific Pride Foundation.
“The messaging is being targeted to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men because that community is just being impacted at a much higher rate than other communities,” said Kristin Flickinger, the executive director for the Pacific Pride Foundation.
While anyone can catch Mpox, it's most commonly contracted through close skin-to-skin contact.
“What we know is that while it's not a sexually transmitted infection, it's sexually associated, and so it seems that in the United States, Mpox has been traveling through certain social and sexual networks, and that happens to be through networks of men who have sex with men at this time,” Flickinger added.
Organizers say around 150 people turned out for the first vaccine clinic last week in Santa Barbara. They will have enough vaccine doses on hand Thursday night for around 250 people.
"We have eligibility requirements and we will not turn people away," said Dr. Ansorg.
He says people being vaccinated at the clinic must fall under at least one these categories:
- Men who have sex with men
- People who have recent STI's including gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, etc.
- People who engage in anonymous or group sex
- People who take PrEP
- Scientists who process Mpox in laboratories
- People with autoimmune diseases
- Pregnant women
"We do know that after the first dose, your protection against catching Mpox is very, very high, above 85%," Dr. Ansorg said.
To be fully vaccinated, Ansorg says a person needs two doses at least four weeks apart. He says they are mainly concentrating on giving out the first dose right now.
“There's a record so very similar to COVID-19. If somebody comes to a vaccine clinic, they will present their I.D. and they will go into the county system and then they will receive a vaccine card so that they've got a record of the vaccination,” said Flickinger.
Dr. Ansorg says some medical forecasters believe by the end of the calendar year, there will have been 15,000 cases of Mpox in California.
He recommends people to be very forthcoming with their intimate partners and if you do not feel well or have a rash anywhere on your body, to let your partners know in an effort to help minimize the spread of the virus.
The Pacific Pride Foundation is also hosting a Pride Festival this coming Saturday, August 27, at Chase Palm Park Field in Santa Barbara where there will be 500 doses of the Mpox vaccine available.
There are now six confirmed Mpox cases in Santa Barbara County and one case in San Luis Obispo County.