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Concern growing about monkeypox vaccine availability before valley Pride events

The push for more monkeypox vaccines continues in the Coachella Valley and Riverside County.

"It's moving way, way, way too slow," said Cathedral City resident David Wichman.

Vaccine access continues to be a key struggle in the fight against the rapidly spreading viral outbreak, Wichman said.

Riverside County reported one new monkeypox case Wednesday, bringing the total to 71 countywide. 66 of those cases were in the Coachella Valley.

With tight eligibility restrictions and low supply from the state and federal governments, county Public Health Director Dr. Kim Saruwatari took the opportunity to call for help Tuesday in a state Senate monkeypox committee hearing.

"We need to figure out a way to get more vaccine out into the community faster," Saruwatari said.

As of Tuesday, Riverside County had received 5,384 vaccine doses, according to the California Dept. of Public Health, which are being distributed through Borrego Health, DAP Health, Eisenhower Health and Kaiser Permanente.

The county requested 1,500 more doses – but that request was not immediately approved. Instead, 750 doses were offered which are expected to arrive Wednesday or Thursday, a county spokesperson said.

Dr. Phyllis Ritchie, CEO and founder of Palm Spring STI clinic PS Test, has tried to get vaccine doses to distribute to her patients, a complicated process she said has not yet been successful.

"We have a horde of patients that are qualified to get the monkeypox vaccine," Ritchie said. "They're not part of Borrego, they're not part of Eisenhower, they're not part of DAP – and they are unable to access the vaccine. They just don't even know who to call."

For Wichman, concern is growing with less than two months until Pride celebrations kick off in Palm Springs.

"Tens of thousands of people come to Palm Springs for that event," Wichman said. "There are numerous events and parties and people are going to be hooking up. And there's lots of opportunity for monkeypox to spread."

He is calling for open vaccination clinics to get many people vaccinated quickly.

"If we're not vaccinating people by the middle of September, and that's really cutting it close...within the next few weeks, we're it's going to be too late," Wichman said.

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Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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