A monkeypox vaccine is available for at-risk New Yorkers

Facing a growing outbreak of the monkeypox virus, New York City health officials expanded access to a monkeypox vaccine on Thursday. offering it to a new group of people who may be at higher risk: men who have had multiple or anonymous male sexual partners in the past two weeks.

New York City is the first US jurisdiction to expand access to the vaccine beyond close contacts of infected people, following similar steps in the United Kingdom Y Canada.

Public health officials around the world have scrambled to devise an effective response to the outbreak, which has been spreading 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 monkeypox virus starting Thursday. Nationally, 173 cases it had been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Globally, there were more than 3,300 cases of the disease reported in 42 countries outside African regions where it is endemic, in the largest global outbreak in history.

No deaths have yet been reported in the outbreak outside of Africa, but 72 deaths have been reported since the beginning of the year in endemic African regions.

The opening of the first clinic to offer the vaccine in New York City on Thursday was not publicly announced in advance. Instead, after a press release was issued at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, word spread on social media and by word of mouth about the sudden availability of the vaccine.

By early afternoon, a line of more than 100 men had formed outside the city. Chelsea Sexual Health Clinicwhich is the only place in town that offers the shots.

At about 1:30 p.m., clinic workers began turning away new people, asking them to make appointments online for the next week.

There is a limited supply of the preferred monkeypox vaccine, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is made in Denmark and is known as jynneos in the U.S. Although the federal government holds about 1.4 million doses, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said there were only about 1,000 doses of vaccine available to city residents.

“The lawsuit we are seeing today is further proof of how proactive the LGBTQ+ community, and all New Yorkers, are when it comes to their health and seeking medical care,” the city’s Health Department said in a statement. “We are in discussions with the CDC for more doses and are looking into how we can increase our capacity citywide.”

Gay men’s health advocates have been calling for greater access to the vaccine for weeks. Until Thursday, it was mainly offered only to known contacts of infected people and some health care workers. Particularly with the Pride parade and related celebrations this weekend, it seemed the city had underestimated demand.

James Krellenstein, co-founder of PrEP4All, a health advocacy group, was among the first in line at the clinic around noon. He got the dose from him at 12:30 pm and said he was relieved to at least have some protection before the Pride festivities got into full swing.

“I think it was really strange to do this without prior consultation with the community,” he said, but opening the clinic “is the right decision. We need to roll out the vaccine at this point to the general population.”

He said there is a strong desire to get at least one dose of the two-dose vaccine before this weekend, which will provide at least some protection against spread, even among people who don’t plan to have sexual experiences. The disease can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with infected lesions anywhere on the body and does not require sexual contact.

“At parties, a lot of times people take their shirts off and dance together,” she said. “This allows us to feel a little more comfortable.”

Vaccines will be available at the clinic from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, the city announced. The web dating system should also have more appointments starting 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, and then progresses to a painful rash with blood-filled lesions. pus on the face and body.

While it is much less lethal than its relative smallpox, it can be fatal, with a mortality rate of between 3 and 6 percent in African regions where it is endemic. It is spread primarily by skin-to-skin contact, but can also be spread by respiratory droplets from prolonged close contact or contact with shared objects such as towels.

In this global outbreak, the disease has sometimes presented differently, such as just a few lesions in the genital area or internally. As a result, there is a risk that it could be confused with other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and herpes, the CDC warned in a statement. recent health alert.

Testing in the United States is done at one of about 70 public health labs across the country, but the CDC recently announced that it was expanding access to some commercial labs to make it easier for health care providers to order tests . However, the pace of testing is still relatively low and some people who suspect they have monkeypox they have been fighting to find providers to test them.

As of Wednesday, a total of 1,058 tests had been conducted across the country for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs, the CDC said.

Joseph OsmundsonA New York University microbiologist who is among a group of activists pushing for greater access to testing and vaccination, said there was “immense frustration in the community” over access to the vaccine, and he hoped that other cities followed in New York. York steps and clinics open soon.

At the same time, he said, health officials need to make sure they better communicate the launch of clinics ahead of time to ensure wider access to doses.

“We fully understand that we are flying the aircraft as we build it and not everything is going to 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 the information.”

Luck and chance also played a role in who was shot first.

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 a tent near the front door.

“I thought it was a gift,” Polk, 39, said. It turned out to be an enrollment for the vaccine, and Mr. Polk was one of the first to arrive.

“I’m pretty sure they weren’t expecting all these people,” Polk said, “because when I got here there was no one and I had to wait a little bit 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 was just as shaken as I was,” Polk said.

Sean Piccoli contributed to this report.

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