If I am eligible, where can I find a monkeypox vaccine?
Monkeypox vaccine supplies in the Bay Area are distributed directly by the California Department of Public Health, which sources supplies from the federal government. And right now, availability is still limited and demand is high.
If you meet the symptoms of monkeypox or if you have been told that you may have been exposed to monkeypox, you should contact a health care provider immediately. A health care provider can (hopefully) help you navigate this process, talk about any additional risk factors you may have, and also tell you if you qualify for some of the monkeypox treatments currently available. .
If you have health insurance, contact your provider as soon as possible.
Kaiser Permanente has received monkeypox vaccines and currently only offers them to Kaiser members. You can schedule an appointment by calling the health care provider’s monkeypox vaccination hotline at (415) 833-9999. A member of staff will take your call and ask if you have any symptoms or have recently been in contact with someone with a confirmed case.
UCSF also offers vaccines to those who are currently eligible — and you don’t need to be a UCSF patient or have insurance to make an appointment. You can visit the UCSF Monkeypox Vaccine Webpage to learn how to book an appointment using the UCSF MyChart portal. Vaccines are administered at the 3333 California Street site in San Francisco.
If you don’t have health insurance, contact your county public health department for advice:
The San Francisco Department of Public Health recommends that if you live in the city and don’t have a provider or have difficulty making an appointment, you can be seen at the SF City Clinic at 7th Street. (628-217-6600) or at Strut at 470 Castro Street (415-581-1600).
Currently, there is only one walk-in vaccination site in San Francisco, located at the ZSFG Learning Center at 1001 Potrero Avenue. Its usual opening hours during the week are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you visit the ZFSG site on an open day, look for building 30; the clinic will be on the second floor.
Please note that this walk-in clinic has often been closed at short notice due to a lack of supply, so it is important to check that the site is still open before your visit. You can usually find the latest updates on ZSFG clinic status on the San Francisco Department of Public Health Twitter feed.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has a waiting list to receive the vaccine with Magnet, the organization’s sexual health clinic. You can dial (415) 581-1600 or access the waiting list here.
Routine smallpox vaccination in the United States ended in 1972. But if you received a smallpox vaccine before then, you might be wondering if it now offers you protection against monkeypox, being given that the monkeypox virus is related to the smallpox virus (although it is generally less serious and much less contagious than smallpox).
San Francisco health officer Dr. Susan Philip says that being vaccinated against smallpox “would have some cross-protection against monkeypox” and that “it appears that people who have been vaccinated against smallpox in the past have partial protection, so they may not have such a severe case of monkeypox.”
But if you got your smallpox vaccine before 1972, would you still have some immunity to monkeypox? For now, it still seems uncertain. Andrea McCollum, poxvirus epidemiology team leader in the CDC’s Division of Pathogens and High Consequence Pathology, says “it’s something that we really didn’t understand in people who had [smallpox] vaccination 50 years before, 60 years before.”
Philip points out that since a landmark smallpox vaccine “may not provide complete protection” against monkeypox, the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the CDC recommend that even if you have received a smallpox vaccine as a child, you should definitely seek out a monkeypox vaccine if you are exposed to monkeypox, to get “the most complete protection possible”.
The monkeypox vaccine can act as a kind of treatment, but only when a person receives it shortly after exposure, says Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF.
“If you received a vaccine soon after exposure – some people think within four days – it can have an impact and prevent you from getting the disease, even though you may have been exposed to an infection,” he said. “If you get the vaccine within 14 days of exposure, even though you might get a rash or illness, it will reduce your symptoms.”
But the monkeypox vaccine isn’t the only treatment currently available. Some doctors give the drug TPOXX (also known as Tecovirimat or ST-246) to patients with severe symptoms of monkeypox. Tecovirimat is usually a two-week course and can be given either through a capsule or an intravenous injection. The drug works by making it harder for the virus to infect new cells, thus limiting the growth of the infection.
“Most people will get better on their own, but some people will need treatment,” says Dr. Chin-Hong of UCSF. People considered for treatment include immunocompromised people, pregnant women and children under 8 years old.
People who don’t have these particular risk factors but still develop severe monkeypox can also receive treatment, Chin-Hong says. This includes those who develop extensive oral disease, as it makes it very difficult to eat and drink. “It’s like having a bunch of ulcers in your mouth,” he says. Those who develop the disease extensively in the rectal area or near the eyes may also receive treatment.
TPOXX has only been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat smallpox infections. The CDC, however, allows doctors to prescribe TPOXX for the treatment of monkeypox through a process called “expanded access investigational new drug protocol.” A physician will need to submit an application to the FDA and the patient must be prepared to sign an informed consent form.
San Francisco’s Dr. Philip said city health officials are partnering with health providers to “expand access for people across the city, whether they’re affiliated with the health system or not,” but adds that it is up to the CDC to streamline the process for doctors to request TPOXX.
Another thing patients should consider is talking to their doctor about any pain they may be experiencing and where. Some patients with monkeypox described the pain of the rashes as “inevitable”.
There are many options available that can relieve, or at least reduce, the pain you may feel if you have monkeypox. Doctors can prescribe treatment that can address the pain associated with lesions, which can appear on a patient’s face, arms, mouth, or genital or rectal area, says Dr. Chin-Hong of UCSF.
“Treatment is not just about vaccines and drugs. Treatment is also about the patient’s specific symptoms,” he says. “So be sure to ask your healthcare provider for help, as there may be things that can help you feel less pain.”
What other questions do you have about monkeypox?
Do you have any other questions about monkeypox and cannot find the answer in this article or in our guide to monkeypox symptoms and how the virus spreads?
You can use the box below to submit your question. What you send us will strengthen our reporting on monkeypox and help us decide what to cover here on our site and on public radio KQED.
Please be aware that we cannot directly contact everyone who asks a question and cannot give individual medical advice. If you are concerned about monkey pox or another health issue, we encourage you to contact your health care provider or a local community clinic if you do not have insurance. (See our list of community clinics in your county.)