If you're among the group of people most likely to be exposed to the mpox virus — formerly known as monkeypox — in the event of a new summer surge in cases, the SF Department of Public Health would like you to please consider seeking out your second dose if you never got that.
It's apparently, maybe, about to be monkeypox season again. Or, rather, mpox season, as the cool kids are now calling it. There's been a recent cluster of mpox cases in Chicago, which has health officials around the country worried that we're going to see another outbreak this summer. As NBC News reports, eight cases were reported by an LGBTQ-focused health clinic in Chicago in recent weeks, up from just one case in the previous three months. And most of these cases occurred in people who were vaccinated against the virus last year.
Health officials are encouraging everyone to get second doses of the Jynneos mpox vaccine if they only received one dose — saying that full vaccination, while it may not fully protect against a breakthrough infection, will likely decrease the severity of any infection that occurs.
All eight cases in the Chicago cluster were reportedly mild, with seven out of eight occurring in gay or bisexual men. One of the cases was in an unvaccinated individual, one case was in a patient who had received one out of two vaccine doses, and the rest occurred in patients who were fully vaccinated.
"Without renewed vaccination and prevention efforts, we are at risk for a resurgence of mpox," said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the deputy coordinator of the White House national mpox response. "Vaccine is a really important tool, even if it’s not perfect."
The SF Department of Public Health (DPH) put out a call today to "all men, trans people, and nonbinary people who have sex with men, trans people, or nonbinary people" to get vaccinated against mpox. And, to help with that, the department is hosting SOMA Second Saturday pop-up clinics in May and June, outside of the Eagle Tavern (12th Street between Folsom and Harrison Streets, May 13 and June 10, noon to 5 p.m.).
"Cases of mpox in San Francisco remain low, however, we remain watchful, as several new cases have recently been reported in other parts of the country. We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy a happy and healthy Pride," says San Francisco Health Officer, Dr. Susan Philip, in a statement. "If you received your first dose of the mpox vaccine, even if it was in the fall, it is not too late — now is a great time to get your second dose."
The two doses are supposed to be at least 28 days apart, but the department says it's fine to go get your second dose without starting the process over, even if your first shot was last summer or fall.
SF saw a significant outbreak of cases in 2022 that began in June and peaked in early August, with gay and bi men, in particular, clamoring for vaccine shots at the city's free vaccine clinics. Supplies were short for a few weeks, but then flowed freely, and over 50,000 doses were administered in SF in the space of a few months. And by late October, cases had dropped to a low enough point that DPH called an end to the local mpox emergency.
Last year's outbreak was traced in part to big gay circuit parties in Europe in the spring. The first case detected in San Francisco was in early June and found in an individual who had traveled to one of these hot spots. Around the same time, cases popped up in Los Angeles and Sacramento as well. The most significant uptick in cases here began the week after SF Pride.
Mpox is transmitted primarily through skin-to-skin contact, often sexual contact. Risk of infection for the general public outside of sexual settings involving infected people — or large, crowded, shirtless dance parties — is low.
Photo via SF DPH