‘We should’ve been ahead of this’: Doctor concerned about monkeypox preparedness

For people who cannot take a whole day off work to get the vaccine in LA or can’t drive or find a ride, there are no local options available for a pre-exposure or post-exposure vaccine.
A local doctor said Monday more needs to be done in Riverside County to prepare for monkeypox.

A doctor at a local clinic for testing and treating sexually transmitted infections says the county may not be ready for monkeypox infections.

Driving the news: Dr. Phyllis Ritchie, a board-certified infectious disease physician, CEO and founder of the nonprofit PS…Test, says a Palm Springs resident came into the clinic showing symptoms of a sore throat and other flu-like symptoms after attending LA Pride.

  • The patient had gotten a letter from Los Angeles County saying they may have been exposed to monkeypox. 

At issue: Dr. Ritchie says she knows what symptoms to look out for, but she didn’t know who to contact at the county or if there were even vaccinations available locally for patients who have been exposed.

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  • “When I reached Riverside County, they’re just not set up yet to administer the vaccine, which was disappointing,” Dr. Ritchie said.

That patient was instructed to go back to LA to get the vaccine, and they’ll have to go back again in 28 days to get the second dose.

  • Barbara Cole, a registered nurse and branch chief for Riverside County Disease Control, said that while inconvenient, going to Los Angeles is currently her best advice.
  • “You have to have the vaccine in order to offer it,” Cole said. “I told them to follow the specific instructions on the letter that told them how to quickly get the vaccine.”

Zoom in: Monkeypox is a virus related to smallpox, but much less infectious and with milder symptoms. 

  • Symptoms like fever and flu-like symptoms usually begin within one or two weeks of exposure. After that, a rash and lesions can develop on the face, genitalia, or other parts of the body.

Most cases are occurring in men who have sex with men, people with multiple sexual partners, or people who practice sex without condoms.

  • The World Health Organizations says the virus enters the body through broken skin, bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials like bedding.

Going forward: Some major cities have already established vaccination programs for people who believe they may have been exposed, but Cole could not confirm a timeline for similar programs in Riverside County.

  • “We had an initial meeting with the California Department of Public Health to talk about our community needs,” she said. “They are working on getting additional vaccines for all the jurisdictions in the state.”

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