Governor Gavin Newsom recently declared a State of Emergency to boost California’s vaccination efforts against the monkeypox outbreak. Second-year student pharmacist Charles Liu, from the University of California, Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, is aiding efforts in Los Angeles County to immunize those at higher risk of being exposed to monkeypox.
Since the LA County Public Health clinic at the West Hollywood Library opened on August 3, Liu and other pharmacy interns are working to deliver scarce doses of the vaccine to vulnerable individuals, administering as many as 250 vaccines a day.
Liu received his immunization training with his fellow inaugural UCI student pharmacists in November 2021. Keri Hurley-Kim, PharmD, associate clinical professor at the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, oversaw his training.
“The Monkeypox vaccine is given as a subcutaneous injection [into the fat tissue under the skin at the back of the upper arm], rather than intramuscular [into the deltoid muscle],” said Hurley-Kim, interim chair of the Immunization Coalition of LA County. “It requires a slightly different technique compared to flu, COVID-19 and many other routine vaccines to ensure the vaccine does not end up in the muscle. Charles Liu is administering monkeypox vaccines with perfect technique.”
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Monkeypox is a rare disease that has been around since at least the 1950s; however, there is a recent significant increase in reported cases where monkeypox is not commonly seen, including in Europe, Canada, the United States and California. Monkeypox is in the same family as the smallpox virus.
“Pharmacists are already serving as a major component of the immunizing infrastructure in the U.S.,” Hurley-Kim said. “Having administered a large majority of COVID-19 vaccines since they became available in December 2020, pharmacists will be ready to immunize vulnerable individuals and affected groups and communities.”
As a student pharmacist living through two global health emergencies declared by the World Health Organization, Liu is eager to provide the best care when he serves communities in need.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was disappointed I could not immunize yet. I wanted to make a difference in the effort to fight this pandemic. When I heard about the monkeypox immunization site, I immediately jumped at it and knew I wanted to be on the front lines and serve the public.”