California cities — including Palm Springs, Los Angeles and San Francisco — lead the nation in online searches for monkeypox vaccines, underscoring the growing challenge of finding the limited doses and accessing them as cases of the rare virus continue to rise.
Eight of the top 10 metropolitan areas looking online for nearby monkeypox vaccines in the past week were in California, according to Google Trends. The Jynneos vaccine, which has been approved preventively and post-exposure for protection against monkeypox, remains scarce across the country. Clinics report long waiting lists for the vaccine, and images from many U.S. cities show people squirming in lines through city blocks to take the photos.
California is second only to New York in the number of monkey pox in the state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. San Francisco last week declared a state of emergency amid the rapid spread of the disease — a decision also made by New York — and on Monday, Illinois and California did the same.
Monkeypox continues to disproportionately infect gay and bisexual men, and many LGBTQ activists have called for more to be done, including better access to vaccines, which are in high demand but scarce in supply.
LA County public health officials have said they have created eligibility parameters to target those most at risk because the federal government’s vaccine supply is so limited. They have received 24,000 doses, which have been distributed to county-run and other partner vaccine distributors, and officials say they hope to get more.
San Francisco and Los Angeles together make up about two-thirds of California’s nearly 800 monkey pox cases. But the Google Trends analysis of where people searched most for “monkeypox vaccine near me” included not only the state’s two largest cities, but Bakersfield, Sacramento and Fresno, among others.
Miami and Washington, DC, were the two non-California metropolitan areas that made Google’s top 10 regions in search of nearby monkeypox vaccines.
Suspected or confirmed cases have nearly doubled in LA County in the past week, rising to 400 Monday. In San Francisco, 310 cases were reported Monday, nearly 44% more than a week earlier.
According to state data, most cases in California have been confirmed in men who identify as gay, bisexual or are part of the LGBTQ community. Some cases have also been confirmed in transgender or non-binary people.
Although monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, it spreads easily during sexual encounters or other close skin-to-skin contact, experts say. It can also spread on towels or linens that have touched the virus or through respiratory secretions, such as when kissing. Monkeypox is rarely fatal, but the lesions can be extremely painful.
California health officials say the risk of monkeypox to the general public remains low as it spreads much less easily compared to an airborne virus like the coronavirus. However, monkeypox can spread to anyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and has been confirmed in two children and a pregnant woman.