San Francisco's Latinos disproportionately affected by monkeypox

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Health officials in San Francisco are raising awareness about the growing number of monkeypox cases, especially among the Latino population. The city is recommending that community members protect themselves amid a limited supply of vaccine doses.

Latinos account for almost 30% of all cases in the city even though they make up 15% of the population, according to the San Francisco Public Health Department.

“We know that there are more cases that are underreported,” said Noel Sanchez, a spokesperson for the Public Health Department.

Lines grow out the door at San Francisco General Hospital on Thursday after monkeypox vaccine doses entered a shortage. (NBC Bay Area)
Lines grow out the door at San Francisco General Hospital on Thursday after monkeypox vaccine doses entered a shortage. (NBC Bay Area)

“In order for us to be able to control the further spread, we need more vaccines right now,” Sanchez said. "It is imperative that we vaccinate as many people as we can with the doses that we get."

San Francisco had registered 215 cases as of Monday.

California has recorded 356 cases, recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows. Close to 3,500 cases have been counted nationwide.

The city of San Francisco has ordered 35,000 doses from the state Public Health Department but has received only 7,814. The Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center vaccine clinic closed Tuesday, citing a lack of available monkeypox doses. Other sites remain open with limited supplies, Sanchez said.

Vaccine scarcity in the U.S. has been linked to supply chain issues. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services anticipates the availability of 1.9 million doses this year and 2.2 million more during the first half of 2023.

The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency over the weekend.

Because of the limited supply in San Francisco, members of the LGBTQ community, who are most at risk, and people who have been exposed to the virus within the last 14 days have gotten priority for vaccine doses.

According to the city's data, members of the LGBTQ community accounted for 88.7% of the city's cases, and 97.7% of those affected were males. However, Sanchez said, monkeypox can affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

"We don't want our community to be stigmatized," Sanchez said. "We want to make sure that this is not labeled as a disease that affects X, Y or Z community. We've lived that with HIV [and] AIDS."

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