Andy Stone is one lucky person. A tweet by an activist for AIDS in New York City was sent to Stone, who saw it as a message stating that monkeypox vaccines would soon be available at a Manhattan clinic. Stone, 35, booked online appointments and received their shots last month.
Stone, a Brooklyn-based marketing consultant, said that he wanted to do all he could to protect himself and others. He said that his primary care physician recommended that he get the vaccine as soon possible.
Many men showed up at the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic without appointment and waited in a long line. According to Erik Bottcher (New York City Council member), many people were turned down after the 200 shots ran out. People tried to book online appointments for the following days but none was available. He wrote to state officials urgently asking for additional vaccines.
In mid-May, the first case of monkeypox in the United States was confirmed. Public health experts noticed echoes of COVID-19 as the government's slow response to the 605 monkeypox cases nationwide by July 6.
Gregg Gonsalves is an associate professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health. "We are six weeks into the process, and we still have problems with testing availability and vaccine supply. All these issues we saw with COVID," he said. "Now, the prospects of containment are receding rapidly."
Monkeypox does not cause COVID. While COVID has claimed the lives of more than 1,000,000 Americans, no monkeypox victim has been reported to have died in the United States from the current epidemic. Monkeypox is not transmitted by walking into an infected room.
Monkeypox is a virus that belongs to the same family of smallpox. It causes painful, pimple-like lesions on the skin, hands, feet and chest. People can spread the virus to others by touching bedding or close physical contact until the lesions heal. Monkeypox usually disappears within two to four weeks.
The majority of infections have been found in men who have had sex with other men. Many cases are located in Europe. The World Health Organization reported July 1, that cases are also emerging in other groups, including household members, heterosexual partners, children, and others. According to WHO, up to 10% of patients have been admitted to hospital.
ACAM2000 and Jynneos are the two vaccines available to protect against monkeypox. Federal officials have prioritized Jynneos because it has fewer side effect and can be given to immunocompromised people. ACAM2000 is not. Jynneos must be administered in 28-day intervals. To date, the federal government has distributed over 800 doses ACAM2000 vaccine.
However, vaccine distribution is still very limited at the moment. Health care providers on the frontlines say they are in urgent need of more vaccines.
Federal officials announced in recent days a three-pronged approach to the monkeypox epidemic. This includes increased vaccine deployment, easier testing and education of the public and health providers. They also plan to promote vaccinations for those most at risk, especially those from the LGBTQ+ community.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra stated that monkeypox is not a serious threat to the majority of Americans. However, he said that he was doing all he could to provide vaccines to people at high risk. "This strategy will allow us to increase the supply of vaccines currently available and reach the most vulnerable people affected by the current outbreak.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had originally recommended that people only get vaccinated if they were in contact with someone with monkeypox. The federal guidance now covers men who have had sex with multiple partners in a location where monkeypox is reported.
The CDC announced on July 1 that it had purchased additional Jynneos doses, which were made by Bavarian Nordic /S. This brings the total number of Jynneos doses available for purchase to 4,000,000 in 2022 and 2023. The federal government announced that 41,520 vaccine "patient courses" had been distributed to 42 jurisdictions on July 6.
New York City was first given 1,000 doses at the Chelsea clinic. Then, it got nothing for almost two weeks. According to reports, 300 vaccination appointments were taken in just minutes in Washington, D.C., which were made available at end June. As of July 1, 800 doses of vaccines were distributed in Los Angeles to close relatives of those with the disease. Los Angeles County's Department of Public Health stated in a press release that it will provide more vaccine doses to high-risk individuals as the vaccine supply increases.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced in July that it had been approved to distribute nearly 6,000 more doses of the vaccine. It would also make them available at two city clinics. However, a software problem prevented appointments from being made. They will resume next week. The Twitter account of the city's health department has documented its inexplicable efforts to schedule appointments and acquire vaccines.
Ashwin Vasan, New York City Health Commissioner, tweeted: "A sincere apologies for the technical difficulties that our vendor @medrite_ encountered with today's monkeypox vaccination appointment rollout." "We promise to do better in coming days and weeks."
Officials said that the city had recorded 141 cases of monkeypox.
Advocates said that New York's doses will only be a small fraction of the total. Officials at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City serve 20,000 mostly LGBTQ+ patients. Many are eager to receive the vaccine.
Anthony Fortenberry is chief nursing officer at Callen-Lorde. He stated, "We're promoting vaccinations and working closely to patients to find access." "But at the moment, there is very little vaccine and it's not enough to meet demand. He said that 15 monkeypox patients have been seen at the health center so far, an increase from four just a week ago.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to requests for information regarding vaccine and testing availability.
According to epidemiologists, speed bumps in the testing of the disease may also be hindering the country's ability fight the monkeypox epidemic. The extent of the epidemic is unknown without widespread testing and contact traceability.
Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist from Brown University's School of Public Health, said, "Right now we don't know if it's the tip of the Iceberg."
Monkeypox testing is currently handled by a network public health laboratories. It requires a complicated process that not many doctors are familiar with. "If you are an average clinician, it is possible that you have never sent a specimen to a public laboratory," Dr. James Lawler, executive vice president for international programs at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Global Center for Health Security, said.
Federal officials announced that five large commercial laboratories will start running tests this month as part of their expanded efforts. This dramatically increases the capacity.
People at greatest risk are not offered much comfort by systemic improvements.
Charles Rockhill stated that he has nightmares about monkeypox. "I'm very worried. The Manhattan resident stated that she works in a gay bar. "I am always around many people." Rockhill works as a bartender in Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn. This is the place where the Stonewall Uprising took place in 1969 and is considered to be the birthplace for gay pride. Rockhill has been looking for monkeypox vaccinations. He was unable to obtain a vaccine so he uses gloves at work and washes his face more frequently. He also prefers to be cautious in his private life.
He said, "I'm trying to make the best decisions and hoping that I don’t get infected."
KHN (Kaiser Health News), a national newsroom, produces in-depth journalism on health issues. KHN, along with Policy Analysis and Polling are the three main operating programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed non-profit organization that provides information to the nation on health issues.