US to provide additional monkeypox vaccines ahead of Pride

Health

A Mecklenburg County Public Health employee arrives at a monkeypox vaccine clinic in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

(NewsNation) — The U.S. government is providing additional monkeypox vaccinations ahead of Pride season to help curb the spread of the novel virus, health officials announced.

Southern Decadence in New Orleans — or gay Mardi Gras, as it is known — is back for the first time this year, running from Sept. 1-5. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said his state received 1,000 additional vaccines for participants.

Oakland Pride and Pridefest, which both take place in Oakland, California, on Sept. 4 and 11, respectively, is receiving an additional 2,400 doses of the vaccine.

The Atlanta Black Pride Festival, which will take place from Sept. 2-4, is receiving 5,500 doses of the vaccine as well.

That doesn’t include the Charlotte Pride Festival & Parade, which took place Aug. 20 and 21 and was supplied up to 2,000 doses.

The effort is part of the Department of Health and Human Service‘s pilot program to provide up to 50,000 doses from the national stockpile to be made available for Pride and other events that will have high attendance of men who may identify as gay or bisexual. 

The doses will be in addition to jurisdictions’ existing allocations and supplies of vaccine, a White House press release stated.

“(The) CDC will also work closely with state and local health departments to ensure they have plans in place for these events, not just around vaccination but also testing and community engagement,” Bob Fenton, the White House’s monkeypox response coordinator, said in a statement.

The response comes after some LGBTQ advocates criticized health officials’ perceived lack of effort in reaching out to men in the Black and Latino communities, which studies show are being disproportionally affected by the virus.

Even while government officials make way to ensure vulnerable communities are protected this upcoming weekend, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maintained the efforts are only the first step.

“I want to emphasize that while we are offering the vaccine at these events to those at high risk, this is a two-dose vaccine series and receiving the vaccine at these events will not provide protection at the event itself,” Walensky said in a statement. “It’s particularly important to avoid behavior that increases the risk of infection between the first and second dose of the vaccine.”

Health officials also are advocating other steps to prevent the spread of the virus, including temporarily limiting sexual partners.

The department said monkeypox spreads through close contact with an infected person, but it can be prevented using these guidelines:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a new, unexplained rash.
  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact in large crowds where people are wearing minimal clothing, such as nightclubs, festivals, raves, saunas and bathhouses.
  • Do not share cups, utensils, bedding or towels with someone who is sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

People who have been exposed to the disease are eligible to get vaccinated. Others who are also at high risk of being infected can seek out the JYNNEOS vaccine, DSHS said.

The U.S. has the most infections of any country — more than 13,500. About 98% of U.S. cases are men and about 93% were men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.

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