Gays line up at 2 a.m. to get a monkeypox vaccine. Most of them leave empty-handed

They wear masks and follow the basic rules of social distancing in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic – the need for vaccines has far outstripped what federal and state governments can provide.

However, as local hospitals and clinics are forced to rely on inconsistent and insufficient supplies of vaccines, many are left empty-handed, a dilemma that has angered patients and advocates.

San Francisco General opens its clinic doors at 8 a.m. and the line slowly inches forward. The hospital will distribute available doses until supplies last.

For Cody Aarons, 31, it was his third attempt. He stood quietly with more than 100 people in front of him.

“I’ve been in New York for work for the past month and I’ve been trying to get the vaccine through their online portal system,” said the health worker, who thought he might have a better chance in San Francisco.

But 45 minutes after the day’s distribution began, a hospital worker walked by with an announcement. “People, we’ve reached the limit for today,” he shouted. “However, we will try to find you more shots.”

Even though there was no guarantee of getting the monkey vaccine that day, Aarons and everyone else in line stayed put.

“People want their vaccine,” said Raphael Mandelman, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “I know one person who was in that line four days before he got the shot.”

Mandelman, who woke up at 4:30 a.m. and waited hours before getting her vaccine days ago, is upset about the release.

A sign reads 'Monkey Vaccines Here' at a San Francisco hospital in August 2022.

“After the pandemic, we were able to find a new vaccine. [and] distribute tens of millions of doses over a few months, the fact that with the current known vaccine we can’t go beyond this tiny drop is very frustrating to people,” he said.

In California, the vast majority of those infected – more than 98% – are men, and more than 91% of patients identify as LGBTQ. Mandelman feels he and others in the gay community are left to fend for themselves without the support of the federal government.

Desperation and fear

For healthcare workers, the outbreak is a frustrating new chapter in the aftermath of the punishing Covid-19 pandemic.

“At the peak of the Covid vaccinations, we averaged 1,400 to 1,500 (doses) per day. So we’re completely used to the mass vaccination process,” said nurse manager Merjo Roca.

But what Roca and his staff can do given the vaccine shortage.

San Francisco health officials initially requested 35,000 doses, but said they received only 12,000 doses from the federal warehouse. The state of California has told city leaders that San Francisco will receive another 10,700 in the next distribution, but it is not clear when those doses will arrive or how many will be distributed to San Francisco General Hospital.

A state of emergency has been declared in California and Illinois due to monkeypox

“I think one of our biggest challenges is really the inconsistency of delivery,” Roca said. “Our vaccine clinic prides itself on being able to help and vaccinate people when they walk through our doors. So it’s very difficult for all of our staff to not be able to do that and turn people away or even not know when we’re getting our next doses.”

Many of those waiting in line fear the rapid increase in monkey disease, and the clinic staff feel the extra burden of not being able to deliver to everyone.

“It’s very difficult to explain why someone wants a vaccine and why they need a vaccine, but we don’t have it,” Roca added.

Kevin Kwong demonstrates monkeypox.  He recently recovered from monkeypox and was diagnosed in early July.

“It was like someone was piercing my body”

The government insists it acted with haste and information. And there are clear differences between the current response and the response to HIV/AIDS. But some advocates say the government’s rush to address a decades-long public health crisis mirrors what gay men are going through today.

Between October 1980 and May 1981, five young men from various parts of Los Angeles, described by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time as “active homosexuals,” were diagnosed with an unusual lung infection and two died.
This is the first time that acquired immunodeficiency syndrome — a devastating advanced stage of HIV infection that can kill more than 40 million people worldwide — has been reported in the United States.

Exchanges between President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary and reporters in 1982 and 1983 show that the nation’s top officials and mainstream society treated the disease as a joke rather than a major concern.

It stems from the perception of AIDS as a “gay plague” – a condition believed to be linked to the lifestyle and behavior of gay men – and has also been reported in women, infants, hemophiliacs and people who inject drugs. medicines.

Dr.  Sanjay Gupta: Why are we waiting for the cavalry to rescue us when monkeypox is on the rise?

Now, more than 40 years later, the gay community is once again struggling with feeling rejected and ignored by their own government.

“We owe it to a long-standing, marginalized community to not stigmatize or politicize this issue,” said Tyler TerMeer, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “During the early days of the HIV epidemic in our country, we saw our community abandoned by the federal government,” he said.

According to TerMeer, the foundation opened its doors in 1982 “at a time of crisis in our society, when the federal government abandoned us … there are parallels between that time and this time.”

“President Biden has called on us to explore all options on the table to fight monkeypox and protect communities at risk,” said Robert Fenton, the White House’s national monkeypox response coordinator. “We’re applying lessons learned from the wars we’ve fought — from the COVID response to wildfires and measles — and addressing this epidemic with the urgency of the moment.”

Monkeypox is a smallpox virus related to smallpox and cowpox, and it often causes acne-like or blister-like lesions and flu-like symptoms such as fever, according to the CDC.

Lesions are usually concentrated on the hands and feet, but in recent outbreaks they have been appearing more frequently in the genital and perianal areas, raising concerns that monkeypox may be confused with an STD.

“I had 600 to 800 wounds on my body… It was like someone was piercing my body. There were places where I couldn’t walk or touch anything,” said Kevin Kwong. At the beginning of July, the monkey recovered from the disease.

He took to social media to share his ordeal, draw attention to the epidemic and now want to “focus on defaming the gay community.”

People were vaccinated against monkeypox last month at Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
The first case of monkeypox in the United States was announced on May 18 in a patient hospitalized in Massachusetts who traveled to Canada by private transport.
After less than three months, there are more than 7,000 confirmed cases of the outbreak nationwide, according to the CDC, which have been identified in all but two states — Montana and Wyoming.
Since early June, the CDC says it has been conducting extensive education and outreach efforts for the LGBTQ community, including working with local Pride organizations, releasing educational videos and creating campaigns on social media sites and dating apps popular in the gay community.
'We need vaccines and we need them yesterday': LGBTQ community outcry over government response to monkeypox

According to the World Health Organization, as of August 3, there were 25,054 laboratory-confirmed cases and 122 probable cases.

“Currently, it is an epidemic concentrated among men who have sex with men, particularly men with multiple partners,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in late July when the WHO declared monkeypox an international emergency. .

But while the epidemic has disproportionately affected some gay communities, concerns about the spread of the infection are growing.

The CDC reported the first two cases of monkeypox in children in late July. Two other pediatric cases have been confirmed in Indiana and another case in Long Beach, California earlier this week.

“It’s a reminder that all people, regardless of age or sexual orientation, can get monkeypox if they come into contact with the virus,” the city of Long Beach warned, citing CDC guidance that says while children are at low risk of infection, they “should are more susceptible to monkeypox if they live in or have recently visited a community with a high rate of infection.”

More than 500 outbreaks have been identified in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York and Texas, according to the latest CDC figures. New York has the most cases – 1,748 – followed by California with 826 confirmed cases.

“We all need to get behind this issue and come together quickly,” TerMeer said.

CNN’s Harmeet Kaur, Augie Martin, Jen Christiansen, Karma Hassan and Carolyn Song contributed to this story.

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