Chelsea clinic offering monkeypox vaccine to LGBTQ men with multiple sex partners

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Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said vaccination against monkeypox “is a critical tool” to protect New Yorkers.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

LGBTQ men who have had multiple sex partners in the last two weeks are eligible to receive a monkeypox vaccine at the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic in Manhattan.

The city previously limited the monkeypox vaccine to people in close contact with someone with monkeypox or suspected to have monkeypox, but 28 cases have been logged in New York City — and a city Health Department spokesperson told Gay City News “the majority” of those cases have been among men who have sex with men.

The vaccine, according to the city, is available for “all gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (cisgender or transgender) ages 18 and older who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days.”

The clinic is located at 303 Ninth Avenue in Manhattan and will be open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Within hours of the initial announcement, however, all the available appointments were booked through June 27.

“The demand we’re seeing today is further proof of how proactive the LGBTQ+ community — and all New Yorkers — are when it comes to their health and seeking healthcare,” the department said in a written statement on June 23. “New York City is among the first in the nation to offer monkeypox vaccinations and as of this afternoon, all available appointments are booked through Monday. We hope to make more appointments available soon. We are in talks with the CDC to obtain more doses and are looking into how we can boost our capacity citywide.”

Those interested in scheduling a vaccination appointment were encouraged to visit nyc.gov/health/monkeypox and click on a registration link via medritesoft.com. That registration page, however, appeared to be experiencing technical difficulties in the hours after it was rolled out. When selecting a date and time for an appointment, the screen said “invalid date” and did not allow users to complete the form.

The city’s expansion of vaccine eligibility follows the lead of the United Kingdom, which started offering the monkeypox vaccine to the same demographic — LGBTQ men with multiple sex partners — on June 21.

“Members of the LGBTQ+ community have always been fierce advocates for their rights, including, and especially, when it comes to receiving timely access to health care,” Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a written statement. “Vaccination against monkeypox is a critical tool to allow New Yorkers to protect themselves and to help slow the spread of monkeypox in our city.”

The vaccine is called JYNNEOS and comes in two doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The doses are administered 28 days apart and protection is not built up until two weeks after the second dose.

Monkeypox symptoms include fever, headache, muscle/back aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and rashes appearing as blisters or pimples on the face, inside the mouth, and in other areas of the body, including the chest, feet, hands, genitals, and anus, according to the CDC. Symptoms are similar to smallpox, but milder. It is rarely fatal.

Monkeypox is not specifically known to be transmitted sexually, but can spread through skin-to-skin contact with infectious rashes or body fluids and by engaging in prolonged face-to-face contact, the CDC notes. It can also spread when someone touches clothes or linen that previously came in contact with an infectious rash or body fluids.

“Men who have sex or other intimate contact with men they met through dating apps or social media platforms, or at clubs, raves, sex parties, saunas, or other large gatherings may be at higher risk of having been recently exposed,” the city Health Department states on its website.

In May, the CDC issued a warning after there were several reported cases of Monkeypox among LGBTQ men at events in Europe. Some of the cases at the time were linked to the Darklands Festival, a fetish festival for men in Belgium, while others were tied to a Pride event in the Canary Islands. A sauna in Madrid was believed to be another source of monkeypox infections.

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