Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency proclamation Friday that allows the state to increase its supply of hepatitis A vaccines in order to control the outbreak that began in San Diego.
“Today’s proclamation gives the California Department of Public Health authority to immediately purchase vaccines directly from manufacturers and distribute them to impacted communities,” the governor’s office said in a statement.
So far there have been 576 cases and 18 deaths reported, with the vast majority in San Diego County, though Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties have also reported cases.
The majority of patients are homelessness or using illicit drugs, according to the state Department of Health.
“California is currently experiencing the largest person-to-person hepatitis A virus outbreak in the United States since the hepatitis A vaccine became available 22 years ago,” the governor said in his proclamation.
The state Department of Public Health has vaccinated more than 80,000 at-risk people with doses mostly received for free from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but will need more, said Dr. Gil Chavez , an epidemiologist with the department.
“The more that we can vaccinate people at risk the quicker the outbreak will be contained,” he told reporters.
Earlier on Friday, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced a program under which San Diego Fire-Rescue paramedics can administer vaccines.
The governor’s action drew praise and coincided with calls for more federal help with the outbreak.
“This is welcome news and allows us to broaden our efforts to attack Hep A here at home,” said Supervisor Diane Jacob. “The county has been working closely with state public health officials since the early stages of the outbreak. The governor’s emergency proclamation helps take us to the next level by ensuring an on-going coordinated response and continued access to the vaccine.”
“Governor Brown is 100 percent correct,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria, who represents San Diego. “This is an emergency. What started as an outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego County has snowballed into an epidemic affecting other areas of California like Los Angeles and Santa Cruz. We must contain this epidemic now.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents north coastal San Diego County, sent a letter to both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control calling for those agencies to provide additional funding and expertise to help local city, state, and county government officials battle the virus.
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