Faced with a growing outbreak of the monkeypox virus, health officials in New York City on Thursday expanded access to a monkeypox vaccine and offered it to a new group of people who may be at higher risk: men who have had multiple or anonymous male sexual partners during the United States. last two weeks.
New York City is the first US jurisdiction to extend vaccine access to close contacts of infected people, following similar steps in the UK and Canada.
Public health officials around the world have been scrambling to find an effective response to the outbreak, which has spread in dozens of countries since mid-May, particularly among networks of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. .
New York City reported 30 cases of the monkeypox virus on Thursday. Nationwide, 173 cases had been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide, more than 3,300 cases of the disease have been reported in 42 countries outside African regions where the disease is endemic, in the largest global outbreak of the disease ever.
No deaths have yet been reported in the outbreak outside of Africa, but 72 deaths have been reported in the endemic regions of Africa since the beginning of the year.
The opening of the first clinic to offer the vaccine in New York City on Thursday has not been announced publicly. Instead, after a press release went out at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, news spread on social media and through word of mouth about the vaccine’s sudden availability.
By early afternoon, a line of more than 100 men had formed outside the city-run Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic, the only place in town offering the injections.
At around 1:30 p.m., clinic staff started turning down new people and asking them to book appointments online for next week.
There is a limited supply of the vaccine of choice to fight monkeypox, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is manufactured in Denmark and is known as Jynneos in the United States. Although the federal government owns about 1.4 million doses, Manhattan president Mark Levine said there were only about 1,000 doses of vaccine available to city residents.
“The question we see today is further evidence of how proactive the LGBTQ+ community — and all New Yorkers — are when it comes to their health and seeking healthcare,” the city’s Department of Health said in a statement. . “We are in talks with the CDC to obtain more doses and explore how to increase our capacity across the city.”
Gay men’s health advocates have been calling for wider access to the vaccine for weeks. Until Thursday, it was mainly only offered to known contacts of infected persons and some health workers. Especially with the Pride parade and related celebrations this weekend, it seemed that the city had greatly underestimated demand.
James Krellenstein, co-founder of PrEP4All, a health organization, was one of the first in line at the clinic around noon. He got his dose at 12:30pm and said he was relieved to have at least some protection before Pride parties get into full swing.
“I think it’s really bizarre to do this without prior consultation with the community,” he said, but opening the clinic “is the right move. We need to deploy the vaccine to the wider population right now.”
There is a strong desire, he said, to get at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine before this weekend, which will provide at least some protection from spreading, even in people who don’t plan on having sexual experiences. The disease can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with infected lesions anywhere on the body and does not require sexual contact.
“At parties, people often take off their shirts and dance close to each other,” he said. “It makes us feel a little more comfortable.”
Vaccines will be available at the clinic from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, the city announced. The web appointment system should also have more appointments from Sunday, officials said.
The monkeypox virus, so named because it was discovered in captive monkeys in 1958, usually begins with flu-like symptoms, such as fever and swollen lymph nodes, then progresses to a painful rash with pus-filled lesions on the face and body.
Although much less deadly than its relative, smallpox, it can be fatal, with a 3 to 6 percent mortality rate in the African regions where it is endemic. It usually spreads through skin-to-skin contact, but can also be spread through respiratory droplets from prolonged close contact or contact with shared objects such as towels.
What you need to know about the Monkeypox virus?
What is monkey pox? Monkeypox is a virus endemic to parts of Central and West Africa. It is similar to smallpox, but less serious. It was discovered in 1958, after outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In this worldwide outbreak, the disease has sometimes presented itself differently, such as only a few lesions in the genital area or internally. As a result, there is a risk of it being confused with other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and herpes, the CDC warned in a recent health warning.
Testing in the United States is done in one of about 70 public health labs across the country, but the CDC recently announced it is expanding access to a number of commercial labs to make it easier for health care providers to order the tests. However, the pace of testing is still relatively slow and some people who suspect they have monkey pox are having a hard time finding providers to test them.
A total of 1,058 tests had been conducted across the country on Wednesday for the orthopox virus, the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs, the CDC said.
Joseph Osmundson, a microbiologist at New York University who is part of a group of activists pushing for greater access to testing and vaccination, said there was “enormous frustration in the community” over access to the vaccine, and he hoped others would cities would follow in New York’s footsteps and soon open clinics.
At the same time, he said, health officials should ensure that clinic launches are better communicated in advance to ensure wider access to doses.
“We fully understand that we are operating the aircraft as we build it and that not everything will be perfect,” he said. “But we’re also concerned about fairness and communication, and the people who got vaccinated first were the ones who were super connected to information.”
Luck and chance also played a part in who got the first shots.
David Polk, who lives in Hell’s Kitchen, said he arrived at the Chelsea clinic around 12:15 p.m. but not to get vaccinated. He saw people setting up a table and tent by the front door.
“I thought it was a giveaway,” said Mr Polk, 39. It turned out to be a vaccine application and Mr Polk was one of the first to arrive.
“I’m pretty sure they weren’t expecting all these people,” Mr. Polk said, “because when I got here, nobody was there and I had to wait a little while because the appointment system wasn’t working.”
But within half an hour, dozens of vaccine seekers began arriving, and a long line quickly formed, he said. “I think the staff here were just as shocked as I was,” said Mr. Polk.
Sean Piccoli contributed to the report.