From Where We Are

Declining monkeypox rates signal hope, health experts remain hesitant

While high vaccination rates and low positive cases are encouraging, health experts say ‘we can’t declare victory’ yet.

Vaccine being administered into an arm

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As monkeypox cases continue to decline, vaccination rates among county residents have shot up. To date, the L.A. County Public Health Department has reported that more than 60,000 vaccinations have been administered county-wide.

Cases are going down, but the number of residents who’ve either had or continue to have monkeypox is reported at just over 1,800. The disease continues to predominantly effect gay and bisexual men, as well as other men who have sex with men.

Dr. Ward Carpenter serves as the Chief Health Officer for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Though he’s optimistic about the declining rates, he says there’s a long way to go before we’re out of the woods.

Dr. Carpenter is continuing to urge people, especially those particularly at risk, to continue doing what they can to stop monkeypox.

Dr. Ward Carpenter: We know that cases are dropping now, and it shows that this is working between the vaccinations and everybody making these incredible choices to either limit their activities or modify them in some way. We are succeeding in helping to bring this down.

Felipe Osorno is the chief of the Office of Performance and Transformation at the Keck School of Medicine. His husband is a professor at UCLA and worked on the monkeypox scientific advisory committee to the California Department of Public Health.

They got the vaccine early in July to protect their kids, but Osorno says everyone who’s eligible should think about getting vaccinated.

Felipe Osorno: Thinking back on polio, if we all get vaccinated, the transmission will just stop and it will be something that we don’t have to worry about. But if only a few of us get vaccinated, this will continue circulating like any other transmissible disease among our community.

Though monkeypox is a novel disease in the US, it’s not the first to gravely impact queer and trans people.

Dr. Ward Carpenter: There are clear echoes of the AIDS crisis of the eighties and nineties here. It’s palpable in the community. We feel it. People are being triggered by this fear of a new and unknown disease that appears to be impacting gay and bi men disproportionately.

We can’t declare victory just yet. But we are hopeful that as these cases continue to drop, this outbreak may well be contained.

Dr. Carpenter strongly encouraged anyone who fits the current eligibility for the vaccine to do their part to get it as soon as possible. Anyone showing symptoms of monkeypox, such as rashes or skin lesions, are recommended to stay at home until those symptoms subside.

While the current state of the monkeypox epidemic is looking positive, there’s still more work to be down to keep positive rates low.