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Riverside County expands MPX vaccine eligibility criteria

More people will soon be eligible to get a MPX (monkeypox) vaccine in Riverside County.

News Channel 3 learned effective Friday, county public health officials are updating vaccine eligibility criteria to include "gay, same gender loving or bi-sexual men or any men, gender diverse or transgender people who have sex including chem sex with men or transgender people."

Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Chevinsky said this enables the entire category of people to be able to evaluate their risk and decide if they want to get vaccinated.

This comes as a pop-up clinic was held Thursday at Desert Water Agency in Palm Springs with doses available by appointment, along with some walkups.

"It's better to get it, just to be on the safe side," said Edwin Herrera who decided to get vaccinated with his partner Joel Marsh after a potential exposure.

So far in Riverside County, 10,890 people have gotten their shots, including at vaccine events at local restaurants like Oscar's in downtown Palm Springs and a larger one at the convention center.

But until Thursday, prior to the expanded eligibility criteria, only some people were eligible.

"Individuals that have had recent STIs, sex workers or those that are involved in survival sex, and individuals that attend sex on premise events as examples," Dr. Chevinsky said.

The expansion comes as efforts ramp up to get more shots in arms ahead of high risk transmission events that are expected to surround Palm Springs Pride.

"There's a lot of parties that happen around pride, a lot of hot tub parties, a lot of all sorts of parties, and there's going to be a lot of sexual activity," said Dr. Phyllis Ritchie, CEO and founder of PS Test, a Palm Springs STI clinic.

Dr. Ritchie said people need to get vaccinated two to four weeks before the late October and start of November pride events, or the outbreak could intensify locally.

"We agree that the ideal strategy is to try and get as many people vaccinated prior to pride," Dr. Chevinsky said.

County officials said they continue to plan mid- and large-scale vaccination events. As of Thursday, the next planned event will be at Idyllwild Pride on Oct. 1 with onsite vaccinations available there.

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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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