MPX vaccines are easier to get than ever before.
L.A. County has expanded eligibility for the vaccine and made it more widely available at walk-up clinics around the county.
Cases of MPX have cratered after rising exponentially in early August. An encouraging bar chart from the L.A. County Department of Public Health visualizes the steep decline: There were over 200 new MPX cases each week in L.A. County during the month of August. But in the first week of September, there were just 148, and numbers have continued to fall. Statewide data show similar trends.
“The good news is … it does look like we have peaked and that things seem to be improving,” Dr. Erica Pan, California state epidemiologist, said last week.
MPX is very rarely fatal; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 62,406 global cases with 20 total deaths as of Monday. On Sept. 12, public health officials said Los Angeles County had recorded the nation’s first MPX death. The person was severely immunocompromised and had been hospitalized, officials said.
Cases in this outbreak continue to spread primarily among men who have sex with men and transgender people, though anyone can catch the virus. MPX is not easily transmitted but typically spreads through close skin-to-skin contact, which can include sex.
The county has administered more than 60,000 first doses of the MPX vaccine. After a shortage of the Jynneos vaccines this summer, availability across the nation has dramatically increased, stretched even further by a new method to administer the shots that requires only a fraction of a full vial.
Who’s eligible for the MPX vaccine?
Eligibility has been expanded to include people who may be at risk for future exposure to MPX. Several groups are newly eligible for an MPX vaccine as of Sept. 8: All gay or bisexual men; any men or transgender people who have sex with men or transgender people; anyone of any gender or sexual orientation who engages in commercial and/or transactional sex, including in exchange for goods, services, food and shelter; anyone with HIV; and anyone who has had skin-to-skin or intimate contact with someone with a suspected or confirmed case of MPX, even if the case has not been confirmed by the public health department.
Anyone who was previously eligible for vaccination for MPX remains eligible in L.A. County. That includes gay or bisexual men or transgender people who meet at least one of the following criteria:
- You have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days.
- You’ve had skin-to-skin or intimate contact (like kissing or hugging) with people at large venues or events in the last 14 days.
- You are on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, medication.
- You’ve had anonymous sex or sex with multiple people within the last 21 days at a commercial sex venue or other venue. (Carpenter said that would include things like a sex party, club, sauna or spa where people tend to engage in sexual activities, or an establishment where people pay to have sex.)
- You’ve had high or intermediate exposure to MPX (the CDC has a list of what qualifies as exposure at those levels).
- You’ve attended an event or venue where there was a high risk of exposure via skin-to-skin or sexual contact with people with MPX.
- You are experiencing homelessness and engaging in high-risk behaviors.
- You’ve had gonorrhea or early syphilis in the last 12 months.
- You are in jail and have been identified as high-risk by clinical staff.
- You are severely immunocompromised — for instance, you are undergoing chemotherapy, are on high-dose steroids or other immunosuppressants or have advanced or uncontrolled HIV.
Minors who meet eligibility criteria may get the vaccine. Those who are 16 or 17 years old will need to either be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or bring a consent form signed by one. Children between 6 months and 15 years old must be accompanied by a parent, a legal guardian, or by a responsible adult who has a consent form signed by the child’s parent or guardian.
The county is not requiring people to show ID in order to receive the vaccine, though it recommends people use the same name that appears on their ID in case they need to obtain their vaccination record at some point in the future. Vaccine sites will ask you to self-attest to your eligibility to receive the shot.
Where can I get the MPX vaccine?
You can also get an MPX shot at one of the following walk-up public health clinics:
Balboa Sports Complex
17015 Burbank Blvd
Encino, CA 91316
Hours: Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Market Street Center
22900 Market St.
Santa Clarita, CA 91321
Hours: Wed.-Sun., 12 p.m.-7 p.m.
Ted Watkins Memorial Park
1335 E 103rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90002
Hours: Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
4021 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90063
Hours: Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Do not go to a vaccination site if you have symptoms or think you have MPX. Call your doctor or the Department of Public Health at (833) 540-0473.
What about the second dose of the vaccine?
The Jynneos vaccine is supposed to be a two-dose regimen separated by about four weeks. Officials are encouraging people to get both doses to ensure optimal protection.
As of mid-September, L.A. County health officials said only about a third of those eligible for their second shot had received it.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second dose.
What treatment is available for MPX?
While most people recover from MPX without medical intervention, the Food and Drug Administration has approved an antiviral medicine that can be used in certain severe cases. Tecovirmat, often called TPOXX, has become much more accessible to MPX patients in recent weeks, after it was initially very difficult to find or get prescribed. The drug is only to be used for severe cases or for those at higher risk for severe disease, which includes people who are immunocompromised, pregnant or breastfeeding, or children, according to the CDC.
People in need of the treatment should consult their doctor or can call the L.A. County Public Health Call Center from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at (833) 540-0473.
As of Sept. 16, almost 400 people in L.A. County had received TPOXX, most commonly prescribed for severe pain or because of a lesion in a sensitive area, according to the county health department. The vast majority were not hospitalized, and about half had HIV.
Severely immunocompromised people are at risk for serious illness from MPX and advised “to seek medical care and treatment early and to remain under the care of a provider through the course of the disease,” said Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Has the name of this virus changed?
Officially, not yet.
But in light of widespread concerns that the virus’ original name is racist and stigmatizing, the World Health Organization and other public health agencies have pledged to find a replacement. The WHO has started its formal process to rename the disease, though that will likely take months to complete.
In the meantime, California health officials have begun calling the disease MPX — pronounced mpox — which The Times has also adopted for its reporting.