Wiener, Haney blast White House for 'public health failure' on monkeypox

Wiener, Haney blast White House for ‘public health failure’ on monkeypox

As California and the nation at large anticipate increased transmission of monkeypox — a virus that spreads through close, skin-to-skin contact and has spread rapidly among gay and bisexual men — two Bay Area lawmakers are criticizing the Biden administration over shortages of the monkeypox vaccine.

The number of total probable and confirmed cases in San Francisco is 40, the largest of any city in California — the state with the highest number of monkeypox cases as of Friday with 141 confirmed and probable cases.

In a joint statement, state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Matt Haney condemned the Biden administration for not ordering enough doses of the vaccine.

“We have very little time to contain this outbreak and prevent it from getting out of control and potentially becoming endemic,” Haney and Wiener wrote. “The good news is that we have an effective vaccine that prevents monkeypox. The bad news is that the federal government has once again had a public health failure, this time by failing to order enough vaccine doses to prepare for this foreseeable outbreak.”

The first documented cases of monkeypox appeared at two raves in Spain and Belgium, where close sexual contact resulted in the virus’ transmission in these countries and abroad. The first case in California was reported in late May from an individual who had recently traveled to these areas. 

The virus spreads through direct contact with body fluids or sores on an infected person, or with materials such as clothing that have touched body fluids or sores, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. It presents as a vesicular rash, similar to chickenpox, and other symptoms can include fever, headache and chills. It is also easier to control — and less contagious — than COVID-19.

And while the virus can infect anyone, gay and bisexual men have been especially vulnerable in the United States in June due to the occurrence of Pride events nationwide, according to Tyler TerMeer, the CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.


TerMeer’s organization, which prepared for the likely proliferation of monkeypox through a “sex-positive, non-shaming, non-stigmatizing” messaging campaign in the city, anticipated a healthy supply of vaccines for before and after Pride. It received 60 doses of the Jynneos vaccine, a total deemed inadequate by Wiener and Haney.

“It’s completely unacceptable that the the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and other community clinics are receiving so few doses,” Wiener and Haney said in their statement. “We need a sufficient quantity of vaccines so that everyone who is at risk has access.”

The two-dose Jynneos vaccine, according to the California Department of Public Health, has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent smallpox in people older than 18. It can also be used as a post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, for anyone who has been exposed to monkeypox.

On Thursday, the Biden administration announced that it would make 144,000 doses of the vaccine available in addition to 56,000 released at the end of June. But in total, that’s 200,000 vaccines — and if, of the doses already released, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation only received 60, the organization is likely bracing for another meager number of doses in the next batch.

As a result of the shortage, the foundation and other community clinics can only vaccinate close contacts of people who have or may have monkeypox. 

SFGATE news editor Amy Graff contributed to this report.

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