As Monkeypox Cases Rise, New York Will Distribute 8,000 Vaccine Doses

New York has become a hotspot for a growing monkeypox epidemic, but as the city prepares to receive thousands of doses of the vaccine, it’s unclear how the city will distribute them fairly to those most at risk of contracting the disease. : sexually active homosexuals, bisexuals and other men who have sex with men, among whom the global epidemic has been centered.

Last week, a single clinic in Chelsea donated 1,000 doses of the vaccine that the city’s Department of Health had released from stock. Hundreds of men showed up without a date, leading the line to new people after just about 90 minutes.

The city did not publicly announce the clinic’s opening, at noon on a Thursday, until 30 minutes before. And as of Monday, the last shots had been distributed by appointment.

The process led to criticism that the people most connected to the world of public health and with the time to take hours off during a workday got most of the early slots.

As of Thursday, 78 cases of monkeypox had been diagnosed in the city, more than double the number reported a week ago, according to the Department of Health. And statewide, there were 72 cases Wednesday, or 20% of the national total of 351 cases.

But more doses are on the way. Governor Kathy Hochul announced Thursday that the federal government will soon send the state 8,195 more doses of the monkeypox vaccine, including about 6,000 to New York.

“In New York State, we have seen a disproportionate number of cases of monkeypox, especially within our LGBTQ+ communities who have been particularly hard hit,” Ms. Hochul said in a statement. “I recognize the fear and anxiety this outbreak has caused, especially for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers, which is why my team and I will continue to work around the clock to ensure as many vaccines as possible are available to our residents. “

The city pledged to expand access to the doses once it receives more, but there were no details on the distribution plan as of Thursday afternoon.

“This effort was just the beginning and as supply increases we hope to expand to other areas of the city,” Health Department spokesman Michael Lanza said earlier this week. .

He added that the Department of Health had chosen the sexual health clinic in Chelsea, Manhattan, as the location for the first doses because it was among the best-known sexual health clinics in the city, with “a very long history. in the community and providing culturally competent care to LGBTQ+ New Yorkers.

The Department of Health recommended the monkeypox vaccine for men at high risk of exposure, which they defined as men who had multiple or unnamed male sex partners in the past two weeks.

The vaccine allocation, part of a nationwide plan to distribute hundreds of thousands of doses announced by the White House on Tuesday, comes as monkeypox continues to spread and experts warn the window is rapidly closing. to contain the virus.

The US Department of Health and Human Services will immediately provide 56,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, called Jynneos, and another 240,000 doses in the coming weeks, the White House said. An additional 750,000 doses are expected to be available over the summer, and a total of 1.6 million doses should be ready by the end of this year.

“This vaccine currently has certain supply limitations, and for this reason, the administration’s current vaccine strategy prioritizes making it available to those who need it most urgently,” said Dr. Rochelle. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. press conference.

Federal authorities have also announced that state health authorities may request doses of an old smallpox vaccine, called ACAM2000, but it is associated with serious side effects, including death, in immunocompromised people, women pregnant and the elderly.

Demand for the vaccine in New York is expected to exceed initial supply, raising tricky questions about who should have access. Public officials have urged the federal government to provide as many vaccines as possible. The Jynneos vaccine requires two doses to be fully effective, given one month apart.

“When you have a large population that wants to protect themselves, I think we have to do everything in our power to allow them to do that,” said State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who has pushed for more doses.

Along with the vaccine, experts have urged increased education and testing campaigns to ensure more people are aware of symptoms of the virus so they can be checked.

For now, monkeypox testing remains centralized in a network of public labs, making it difficult for some healthcare providers to order tests. The CDC does allow some commercial labs to perform the test, however, which should make testing more accessible in July.

Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health and a longtime HIV/AIDS treatment advocate, warned that the cases detected by the tests were likely just “the tip of the iceberg”. He and other experts worry the outbreak could spread to other populations, especially in congregational settings like prisons and homeless shelters, if health officials don’t do more quickly. .

“We have a path between containment of this epidemic or its continued persistence, particularly in the gay community,” he said. “And I think we’re on the path to perseverance in the gay community as a new feature in our lives at the moment.”

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