More in L.A. County eligible for monkeypox vaccines; California outlines isolation protocols

Eligibility for monkeypox vaccines in Los Angeles County was expanded again this week, increasing access to the two-dose series for more people who meet high-risk criteria, although vaccine volumes remain limited.

Under the new parameters, the Los Angeles County Department of Health will continue to prioritize vaccine distribution to gay or bisexual men and transgender people with certain health or behavioral risk factors, as has been the case with most of the confirmed cases in the county during this outbreak was among LGBTQ men, a trend that is being mirrored across California and around the world.

Experts say the virus spreads most easily through intimate skin contact, including sex. However, monkeypox can be transmitted to anyone under the right circumstances, regardless of gender or sexuality.

Cases have continued to rise rapidly in recent weeks, more than doubling in LA County in the past two weeks and rising nearly 40% statewide in the last week, according to county and state health departments. In LA County, confirmed and suspected cases topped 1,200 on Monday. Nationwide, the total hit 2,660 as of Thursday. Vaccine supplies remain low but have steadily increased in recent months.

Beginning Monday, gay or bisexual men and transgender people in LA County could get the Jynneos vaccine if they had skin-to-skin or intimate contact, such as kissing or hugging, with someone at a large venue in the past two weeks. And anyone who has had transactional sex in the past two weeks is newly eligible for the vaccine.

This follows an extension of the eligibility last week after the county received additional doses and federal officials approved a new method of vaccine administration that can stretch a vial of the vaccine fivefold, which has allowed public health officials to increase their to prolong limited doses. With the exception of those under the age of 18 or with a history of keloid scars, all monkeypox vaccines in the county are administered by the new method, which involves a shallower injection between layers of skin rather than into the underlying fat.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the LA County Public Health Department, said her agency expected to receive more doses from the federal government last week than were shipped, but acknowledged the new distribution method greatly improves their ability to reach those at risk have. She said federal officials also said additional orders for more doses will be filled soon.

“Communities like ours that have populations that are at higher risk will have more available doses that we need to reach,” Ferrer said. “We didn’t receive enough doses to reach them all.”

The Jynneos vaccine is a two-dose series, with shots given four weeks apart. It can be used prophylactically and within two weeks of exposure.

Anyone previously eligible for the shot in LA County is still eligible, including those identified as high risk through contact tracing or those with certain STDs or HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, according to the county health department. Individuals who meet the guidelines need only self-verify their eligibility and can register for a vaccination appointment online or by calling a local clinic or provider, including the Public Health Department, at (833) 540-0473 from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m

The state also recently established isolation guidelines for people with a confirmed or suspected case of monkeypox, recommending that people stay home until infection has been ruled out or their skin lesions have fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed to free them are other symptoms for at least 48 hours.

The guidance recommends limiting interactions with household members, particularly skin contact or sharing towels or personal items, and advises wearing a tight-fitting mask and covering any lesions when other people cannot be avoided. The guidance says people can resume limited, lower-risk activities if they’ve been free of fever, respiratory symptoms or new lesions for at least 48 hours and any lesions that can’t be covered — like those on the face — are fully healed. These patients should dress or cover unhealed lesions, wear a well-fitting mask, and avoid crowded environments.

Monkeypox symptoms can last up to four weeks.

Many people in LA County aren’t yet eligible for monkeypox vaccines, but officials said workers in certain jobs could take steps to protect themselves.

“The risk of monkeypox remains low for the general public, including workers,” said Dr. Muntu Davism, the county health officer. “[But] There are also a number of steps workers can take to protect themselves and their customers more generally. … Our team has identified several sectors as priorities for these guidelines.”

Davis said people who work at gyms, hotels, and other businesses that offer personal care services like massage or skin care salons can take extra steps to protect themselves, such as wearing protective clothing. E.g. staying at home if you are ill, wearing gloves, disinfecting surfaces and washing your hands.

Muntu said there have been no cases linked to those sectors as of last week, adding that most people who contract monkeypox recover without treatment.

However, many patients have reported extremely painful lesions, and Muntu said at least 26 people have been hospitalized for the disease in LA County. No one is known to have died from monkeypox in the United States.

Times contributors Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money contributed to this report. More in L.A. County eligible for monkeypox vaccines; California outlines isolation protocols

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